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Ozone Pollution: Causes, Impacts and Steps taken to Reduce Ozone Pollution

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  • GS Paper 3: Environment: Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation.

Ozone Pollution: Causes, Impacts and Steps taken to Reduce Ozone Pollution_40.1

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Context

  • Recently, a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment has found that ozone levels are exceeding the permitted levels even during winter in Delhi-NCR, making the smog more “toxic”.
  • The study was done by analyzing the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data.

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Key findings of the study

  • Despite the pandemic and lockdowns, more days and locations witnessed a higher and longer duration of ozone spells.
  • Contrary to the notion that ozone is predominantly a summer phenomenon, the analysis finds the gas has emerged as an equally strong concern during winter as well.
  • Even smaller towns of NCR, including Bulandshahar in Uttar Pradesh and Bhiwani in Haryana, appeared in the top 20 list of ozone-afflicted towns and cities.
  • South Delhi locations dominate the list with four mentions in the top 10.

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About Ground-level Ozone

  • Ozone (O3) is a colorless, reactive oxidant gas that is a major constituent of atmospheric smog.
    • It is ground-level ozone which is known as tropospheric ozone.
  • Formation: Ozone is produced photochemically from the interaction between gases in the presence of sunlight.
    • It is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of
    • Major sources of NOx and VOC: Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents.
  • A sunny weather problem in India: the presence of sunlight has a direct impact on the formation of ground-level ozone.
    • Heat acts as a catalyst, facilitating photochemical reactions. Hence, higher concentrations of ozone are seen during the summer months.

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Impact of Ozone pollution

  • On health:
    • Highly reactive gas and even short-term exposure of an hour is dangerous for those with respiratory conditions and asthma.
    • Exposure to Ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and airway inflammation.
    • Long-term breathing of Ozone may cause cardiovascular diseases and result in premature death.
  • On Environment
    • Can reduce species diversity among animals, plants, insects, fish, etc.
    • Damage to crops: make vegetation prone to various diseases, leading to poor quality and quantity of grains produced.
    • Damage to forests: it may result in reduced forest growth and negatively affect habitat quality in the forests. It also results in reduced commercial forest yields.

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Efforts taken to control ground-level ozone pollution

  • Adoption of BS-VI standards: The government has directed mandatory adoption of BS-VI norms for vehicles in India with an aim to control vehicular pollution including Ozone pollution.
  • Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) for Delhi: it was prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) after the order of the Supreme Court of December 2016.
    • Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) is responsible for its implementation.
    • It aims to prevent worsening of Air Quality of Delhi-NCR including Ozone pollution.
  • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP): government launched this campaign to reduce air pollution in 102 non-attainment cities including Ozone pollution.
    • Non-attainment cities: cities that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.

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Way forward:

  • Promoting sustainable and healthier modes of transportation system like cycling and walking along with electric and CNG vehicles.
    • Government should also incentivize the use of public transportation through various measures.
  • Awareness generation: about various ill-effects of pollution in general and ozone pollution, in particular, will go a long way in ensuring a sustainable future.
  • Effective implementation of programs and policies: including extensive real-time monitoring infrastructure across cities.

 

Also read-Prelims Specific Articles- 31 July 2021

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