Why not take air pollution seriously?

As per the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, worldwide some three million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly.
In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6 per cent of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together.
As per the WHO rankings for the list of most polluted cities by particulate matter concentration, Muscat was ranked only 424 in the list of 500.
Health wise, air pollution can lead to respiratory diseases, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections in children.
Parents may wonder what’s going wrong with children or the reasons for their regular sickness, but the villain could be air pollution. WHO reports say even increase in coughing or headaches could be due to air pollution.
Air pollution levels may be not alarming for a city like Muscat for now, but experts say that planners should not worry not just about the present, but also about the future.
Still a number of initiatives can be taken now so that we can ensure a safer and healthier environment for the next generation.
In a city like Muscat, private transport (cars) is the primary mode of travel and mobility of the people is affected in the absence of a private vehicle.
There were around 1,426,350 vehicles on the roads of Oman until the end of September this year against the total current population of 4, 638, 728.
With the large chunk of national population to be under 30 and majority of them likely to witness a sustained career growth over a long period of time, it will be natural for any average household in Oman to have more than two private vehicles at any time.
Public transport may not lead people to shun cars totally, but it may still encourage people to resort to buses or taxis in the wake of rising fuel prices, hefty parking and traffic fines.
“The number of cars on the road will continue to grow but at the same time we should encourage people to use carpools. What’s need for two or three people commuting in same direction from same place to travel in three different vehicles?”
Earlier this year, Marhaba, one of the licensed taxi operators in Oman, started a home-to-work car transport service to be available on a monthly/yearly contract basis.
The service includes pick and drop from home to work and under the agreement, four people can travel in one car and thereby share the monthly charges.
“We should have a national campaign to encourage people help adopt carpool, especially if they are travelling to the same place for work. They can still own private vehicles, but limit its usage in possible situations,” said Abdullah Saleh, a public sector employee, who feels the pinch due to rising fuel prices.
He added, ”I use my private vehicles even for a short distance, but I think we should avoid such trips and encourage people to walk if weather permits or share car if situation permits.”
Preethi Pratap, a school teacher, says, “We tell children to protect our environment but there are few things, which should begin at home. Parents travelling in different vehicles and dumping of
plastic and discarded furniture and gadgets in nearby bins do set good example are certainly not good examples.”
It is not about air pollution, even at home care should be taken to keep AC filters clean, washed stuffed toys and frequent dusting of all surfaces. “Baring for asthma patients, people do not take air pollution seriously. Air pollution from vehicles, recycles and dust are major killers,” said Jayakumar, a physician.

Vinod Nair