Ozone pollution in India kills enough crops to feed 94 million people in poverty
In one year, India’s ozone pollution damaged millions of tons of the country’s major crops, causing losses of more than a billion dollars and destroying enough food to feed tens of millions of people living below the poverty line.
These are findings of a new study that looked at the agricultural effects in 2005 of high concentrations of ground-level ozone, a plant-damaging pollutant formed by emissions from vehicles, cooking stoves and other sources. Able to acquire accurate crop production data for 2005, the study’s authors chose it as a year representative of the effects of ozone damage over the first decade of the 21st century. Rising emissions are causing severe ozone pollution in some of India’s most populated regions. Pollution in Delhi, the nation’s capital, has reached levels comparable to Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world, according to India’s Air Monitoring Center.
The main component of smog, ozone at ground level can cause leaf damage that stifles plant growth, injuring and killing vegetation. There are currently no air quality standards in India designed to protect agriculture from the effects of ground-level ozone pollution, according to the new study. Ground-level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds react with sunlight after the chemicals’ release from vehicles, industry, or burning of wood or other plant or animal matter.