Electric transportation: Kashmir’s response to climate change and air pollution?

E-rickshaws have just just, in April of this year, made their debut in Kashmir Valley. The downtown Srinagar neighbourhoods of Gawkadal and Bohri Kadal are served by the rechargeable battery-powered auto rickshaws. The greatest advantage of these novices on the highways has been the ease of commuting. Given that this type of public transportation may ease congestion, minimise traffic bottlenecks, and make navigating during rush hours quite simple, the general consensus is that the more the merrier. However, the ability to reduce air pollution must be the most significant aspect of its implementation in the valley. E-rickshaws in the valley need to be viewed as more than just another type of vehicle on the roads in the context of a looming worldwide climate disaster.

Our appreciation of it will be aided by knowing the science underlying it. Observe this

Particulate matter (PM) (aerosols), which includes particles that can cool or heat the Earth’s climate by reflecting or absorbing the sun’s radiation, is one of the pollutants released when carbon-based fuels are burned. Particulate matter (PM) is an aerosol that is created when incomplete combustion occurs during the burning of a fuel. Black carbon (BC), a specific kind of PM, remains in the atmosphere for just about a week yet absorbs a significant quantity of solar energy. Burning solid fuels, particularly indoors, and high-emitting diesel engines produce significant amounts of BC, which contributes to global warming.

The operation of older automobiles and polluting businesses are also to blame for the high levels of BC pollution in the urban air of emerging nations. According to estimates, it has caused an excessive 15% warming of global temperatures. According to data from modelling studies, climate change is anticipated to result in higher ozone concentrations, which are a key contributor to respiratory ailments in cities. It is imperative to cut emissions as soon as feasible in order to shield the present and future generations from the negative health effects of burning fossil fuels.

According to researchers, integrating measures to combat both regional air pollution and global climate change will have a greater impact on climate change mitigation. Long-term plans to slow down climate change will benefit more from medium-term measures to minimise air pollution. Short-term reductions in BC have the ability to postpone the effects of global warming by roughly ten years, giving researchers and decision-makers more time to conduct additional study and intensify their efforts. The most appealing option for vehicle interventions is to lower emissions from super-emitting diesel trucks and buses.

Impacts on Health

People are getting sick and dying earlier than they should, especially in low- and middle-income nations. The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution causes 4.2 million premature deaths annually. The Lancet Commission estimates that figure to increase by 2.9 to 4.3 million deaths annually when indoor air quality is taken into account.

Most low- and middle-income countries experience considerable health risks in densely populated metropolitan areas due to high PM2.5 concentrations, or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns. In addition to increased rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, asthma, pneumonia, and other health issues over time, it has also been connected to both acute and short-term ailments. In a 2018 report by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, PM2.5, which is primarily caused by carbon burning and exudes from power plant smokestacks, automobile exhaust systems, and open fires, was ranked as the sixth highest risk factor for death globally (IHME).

Additionally, a growing body of research suggests that chronic exposure to air pollution may lead to worse results for COVID-19 patients. The European Public Health Alliance noted that during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities with greater levels of air pollution also had higher fatality rates and more severe symptoms among COVID-19 patients.

Dementia and cognitive decline are connected to air pollution

According to the view (a 25 July 2022 study from the reputable Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants [COMEAP]), dementia and a decline in mental ability in older people worldwide may be brought on by air pollution, according to science advisers to the UK government.

The panel came to the conclusion that there was a link between air pollution exposure and “an acceleration of the deterioration in cognitive function generally associated with ageing, and with the chance of developing dementia” after examining over 70 studies.

The committee was unable to determine how many older persons had actual evidence of mental impairment as a result of exposure to air pollution due to the dearth of investigative investigations. However, a 2018 research of residents of London found that around 60,000 of the 209,600 new cases of dementia diagnosed in the UK each year may be related to air pollution.

Acid Mist

Acid rain is brought on by increased amounts of sulphuric and nitric acids in the atmosphere as a result of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2). Slight sulfuric and nitric acids are created when airborne water molecules react with the nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide released by automobiles, industry, and other sources to make acid rain that falls back on land.

Every day, companies and cars in heavily industrialised areas and cities with heavy traffic create large amounts of gaseous pollutants. These regions consequently endure abnormally high levels of acid rain.

Animals, vegetation, and agriculture are all severely harmed by acid rain. All nutrients necessary for plant development and survival are washed away. It affects both humans and animals’ respiratory systems. Acid rain that enters ponds and rivers has a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems. It harms structures and historical landmarks constructed of metal and stone.

Jammu and Kashmir’s current situation

Despite Srinagar’s reputation for having immaculate environs, researchers from the University of Kashmir and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) discovered that the city’s air quality substantially deteriorates throughout the winter.

According to Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, one of the study’s authors and the former head of the Earth Sciences department at Kashmir University who is currently vice chancellor at IUST Awantipora, “The number of cars on the roads needs to be decreased to regulate the emission of fossil fuels.” J-K adds up to 1.5 lakh autos annually. Because there isn’t a particularly effective transportation system, we are compelled to use our own vehicles.

The World Health Organization ranked Srinagar’s air as the 10th most polluted in the world in 2018, based on data from 2016.

“We frequently experience poor air quality beginning in November. In the summer and spring, air quality is generally within acceptable ranges, but in the fall and winter, it is extremely polluted. Our air is only clean during periods of precipitation in the winter (rain or snow). According to Mudasir Ahmad Bhat, an environmental scientist and researcher located at the University of Kashmir, breathing the air in Srinagar at this time is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes per day.

According to Mehvish Sheikh and Ishtiyaq Ahmed Naja’s “Preliminary Study on Air Quality of Srinagar, (J&K), India,” released in June 2018, there is a greater concentration of NO2 near Lal chowk, a commercial area, and vehicular emission may be one of the causes for a higher value of NO2.

The NO2 concentration was much higher than the allowed limit of 10 g/m3, ranging from 17.97 g/m3 in November to a maximum of 19.01 g/m3 in January.

The current WHO guideline value of 10 µg/m3 (annual mean) was set to protect the public from the health effects of gaseous nitrogen dioxide.

According to a different study entitled “Winter Burst of Pristine Kashmir Valley Air” by Zainab Q. Hakim, Gufran Beig, Srinivas Reka, Shakil A. Romshoo & Irfan Rashid, published in February 2018, the air quality in Srinagar significantly deteriorates, especially during winter, when the level of PM2.5 reaches a peak value of 348 g/m3 compared to the Indian permissible limit of 60

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