Countries in Southeast Asia are stagnating in their efforts to protect the climate and reduce air pollution. On a daily basis, more than 300 million children in this region breathe unhealthy air that surpasses the hazardous threshold set by the World Health Organization.
India and China alone are responsible for contributing nearly two-thirds of this pollution. India’s pollution issues need to be addressed now, before this toxicity does irreversible damage to the region and its people.
In the last decade, there has been a significant shift in the way society has viewed global warming and how environmental factors play a part in its rapid progression. In the 1970s, the U.S. government established the Environmental Protection Agency as a way to curtail the pollution that resulted from U.S. industrialization.
This was a hard fought battle as there was strong opposition to the decision, as many lawmakers denied that climate change was a real problem.
In the United States, citizens often take for granted what the implementation of the EPA has done, for both the U.S. environment and for the physical health of its citizens. However, other countries throughout the world, such as India, have not advanced as fast as the United States has in this matter.
One major advantage the United States has is that the country entered the Industrial Revolution earlier than countries like China or India. Recently, China has shifted its stance on environmental protection after its image suffered from its ignorance of the climate change problem.
In India, a major contributing factor to negative climate change has been the government’s hesitation to enforce laws and provide solutions to curb pollution.
Recently in New Delhi, India's capital, the air quality became so hazardous that schools around the city were forced to shut down. Some scientists attributed this increase in air pollution to the hundreds of thousands of farmers who have been burning the excess straw from their last crop to make space for the upcoming winter wheat crop. This process entails burning roughly 32 million tons of straw, causing a significant spike in a hazardous particle known as PM 2.5.
This practice is unnecessary, as there is an alternative approach that can mitigate the environmental damages caused from burning the crops. The Indian government has set up a program to subsidize the costs of a machine that helps plant next season’s crop without burning down the remaining forestry. Ironically, this product is known as the Happy Seeder.
The problem that arises is that the cost of the machine is more than what most farmers earn from their entire crop. Even with government subsidies, the cost is still around $1,900. This is an impossible price to pay for the average farmer, who can risk up to a $225 fine for burning their excess crops.
Many farmers believe that by burning their fields, they are fertilizing their soil and clearing it of pests. When farmers took advantage of the Happy Seeder program, they noticed an increase in crop yield and reduced costs in fertilization.
This happens when the crops decompose and they release nutrients into the soil. This calls for farmers to be educated about the benefits of using this program and the dispelling of their false beliefs. However, this does not solve the economic problem that arises on the local level.
The urgency of this situation dictates that action must be taken now. The long term effects are far too costly in both economic and physical capital. In light of the recent Paris Agreement on climate change, one would hope that all participating nations would approach these situations more aggressively.
If the Indian government is not economically able to cover the costs of modernizing into the 21st century, then there must be a motion for both local and global efforts to address this problem. One such solution could involve philanthropic ventures made by those who are able to offer financial help for the necessary resources.
A more practical solution is to push local farmers to form collectives to increase their purchasing power and share the machines, which needs to be used only once per crop cycle. This approach is much more direct and requires the farmers to work together in conjunction with the government to reduce the unnecessary toxic emissions from the crop-burning practice.
In the coming weeks, more toxic air will spread to the highly populated capital and to neighboring countries. By implementing the solutions above, it is possible to eliminate this source of pollution permanently and provide a cleaner world in which the children of India may grow up healthily.