That’s according to a recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Smog is poisoning the country’s harvests – as well as its citizens.
In 2012, Greenpeace released a report stating that India’s uncontrolled coal plant emissions were responsible for 120,000 premature deaths nationwide. Current reports indicate that, if anything, the situation has only grown more dire.
Compare the capitals of India, the world’s third-biggest polluter, and China, the world’s first biggest. Between 2002 and 2010, lung cancer rates in Beijing rose over 50 percent. There, cancers caused by exposure to air pollution (known as lung adenocarcinoma) are on the rise, to the point that one-third of global lung cancer deaths now occur in China.
But, as Inhabitant’s Kristine Lofgren writes, “the worst day in Beijing is really just an average day in Delhi.” Indians have some of the weakest lungs, highest rates of asthma and highest deaths from respiratory issues of any nation in the world. A measure of harmful particulate matter known as PM2.5 rates the air in Beijing, on average, as 227. An average day in Delhi measures 473.
The smog that is poisoning India’s crops is composed mainly of ground-level ozone, which is formed when a cocktail of chemicals – nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds – react with sunlight. These chemicals are emitted by vehicles, industrial processes and the burning of wood and other matter, and as yet India possesses no air quality standards to regulate them.
Ozone is damaging the country’s cotton, soybeans, rice and wheat – with wheat being the most badly affected. This is especially troubling, as the yearly 9.2 percent of cereals lost could have been used as part of the government’s National Food Security Bill, a food subsidy for the two-thirds of the population that lives in poverty.