A stunning image of north India taken by the the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Image was taken on October 30 2008.
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
The haze seen has many causes. Urban pollution, big fires (red dots) and small fires lit for cooking and maybe a sandstorm. Is this worse than Los Angeles at its worst? With winter setting in the northern parts of the country the air quality will deteriorate even further as millions of charcoal and wood fires are lit for warmth. Respiratory problems increase dramatically in the winter in north India.
India faces a frightening challenge of improving air quality both in urban and in rural settings where indoor pollution is a major health hazard. The government has launched the National Action Plan for Climate Change (15 Mb) with separate missions aimed at providing clean energy. Even with a sense of urgency it will likely take a couple of decades to unfold. In the meantime how do you provide alternatives to ten's of millions of people who light up coal and wood fires inside their houses? The National Action Plan besides its focus on large scale clean power generation, urban pollution, sea-level rise and so on, must also provide strong incentives to companies involved in producing low-cost clean energy solutions for rural India.