Chennai: Children constitute about 9 percent of the total population of Chennai city and they are much more vulnerable to air-borne diseases and various skin and respiratory problems caused by pollutants. Chennai is the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases among the seven major cities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.
According to a survey conducted by T V Ramachandra of Centre for Ecological Sciences, the city emits around 4.79 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per capita. The report said that domestic and industrial sectors’ contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission is the highest. Even electricity consumption can be counted as one of the main sources for GHG emissions.
This emission poses a greater risk of carrying air pollution in the environment and it is children who are more susceptible to it. The gaseous pollutants in urban settings include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. These are emitted directly into the air from fossil fuels and natural gas.
Dr. Rajakumar, associate professor of paediatrics and senior consultant of Shri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, said, “There is an increase in the number of respiratory diseases such as hyper-airway disease and asthma among children.”
Children, because of their low immunity, are particularly susceptible. “If there are reports indicating high level GHG emission, children obviously come into the picture as their immunity is weaker than others. Chennai has very poor green cover and that is why it cannot absorb most of the GHG emissions. The corporation has to see that more areas come under the green belt and ensure that there is a greaterawareness of ill effects of greenhouse gases,” said Mr. Srinivasan, a social activist and an environmentalist.
The rising cases of asthma and skin allergies could be linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, both by the households and industrial sector. Climate change which is directly caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions can lead to thousands of heat-related deaths which might disproportionately affect children and elderly. According to a report by Aaron Bernstein in a Harvard paper, there are three major consequences of climatic change—rising sea levels, rising temperatures and increased precipitation, and all three of them stand to have the greatest impact on human – and child – health.