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Air pollution is an ever-present feature of our lives at this point but the winter months are definitely harsher than the rest of the year. This year, too, we see a tremendous drop in air quality along with a drop in the temperature.
We are aware of the fact that coronavirus primarily attacks the lungs and this is why experts have been even more worried about air pollution. A combination of the novel virus and air pollution can be deadly.
National Green Tribunal recently revealed that air pollution is a key factor behind increasing the risk of mortality from COVID-19, as per the latest research. Senior advocate Raj Panjawani and advocate Shibhani Ghosh, appointed by the tribunal as amicus curiae in a case related to banning firecrackers, told a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel that particulate air pollution contributed to 15 per cent of total COVID-19 mortality worldwide.
“The latest research on exposure to air pollution and risk of death from COVID-19 infection suggests that ‘air pollution is an important cofactor increasing the risk of mortality from COVID- 19′,” they said.
“The study also states that this finding should provide ‘extra motivation for combining ambitious policies to reduce air pollution with measures to control the transmission of COVID- 19’. The study estimates that particulate air pollution contributed 15 per cent to COVID-19 mortality worldwide,” they added.
The amicus curiae referred to a study by Andrea Pozzer and others titled ‘Regional and global contributions of air pollution to the risk of death from COVID-19’ and sought suspension of all licences issued by any authority for the sale of firecrackers.
They referred to ‘State of Global Air 2020’ report, released by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease Project, which estimates that India witnessed 980,000 deaths attributable to PM2.5.
The report also states that long-term exposure to air pollution can cause many of the health conditions associated with increased vulnerability to COVID-19, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic obstructive lung disease.
The advocates told the tribunal that even though ‘green crackers’ generate less pollution, they still do contribute to air pollution levels. They suggested that the only alternative left under such circumstances is to take a stern and surgical step to check the proliferation of all kinds of crackers in the interest of general public health and life, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amicus curiae sought suspension of all licences issued by any authority for the sale of firecrackers. In addition, they suggested that any person found selling any kind of firecrackers would impliedly be treated as an abettor of environmental pollution and be liable for environmental damage of Rs 1 lakh.
“In case of individuals found using or allowing the use of any kind of firecracker, the Hon’ble Tribunal may consider imposing a fine of not less than Rs 10,000,” the amicus curiae suggested.
Clearly, we need to sit up and take action to keep air pollution under control. It will only improve our overall health and well-being.