Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum-2017 arrow Global Air Report: GOVT CAN’T TURN BLIND EYE, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 2 March, 2017
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Global Air Report: GOVT CAN’T TURN BLIND EYE, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 2 March, 2017 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 2 March 2017

Global Air Report


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


The publication of ‘State of Global Report 2017’ designed by Health Effects Institute in cooperation with the Institute Health Metrics & Evaluation (IHME) at the Universities of Washington and British Columbia created a flutter at least in India. It found that globally there was a 60 per cent rise in deaths attributed to ozone with a striking 67 per cent of this increase occurring in India alone. In fact, air pollution kills 52 per cent people in India and its neighbour China.


As per the report, while 1.08 lakh deaths were attributed to PM 2.5 exposure in China, increasing from 9.45 lakh in 1990 in 2015, in India it was 10.90, a phenomenal increase from 7.37 lakh in 1990. As is well known, ozone is a gas generated when oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds from vehicular and industrial emissions interact in the presence of sunlight. It was found that Bangladesh and India experienced the steepest rise in air pollution levels since 2010 and now have the highest PM2.5 concentrations among the nations.


Another recent report titled ‘The Lancet Countdown of Tracking Progress on Health & Climate Change’ found Delhi and Patna among the most polluted cities, having an annual PM 2.5 concentrations of metre than 120 micrograms per cubic metres – about 12 times the WHO guidelines. It made the startling revelation that an estimated 18,000 people die every day from exposure to ambient and household air pollution, making it the single environmental health risk. Around 80 per cent are affected in cities while the number goes up to 98 per cent in the low income and middle income countries.


The Union Environment Ministry reacted sharply to the Global Report and refused to accept the foreign estimates associated with air pollution in the country and asserted that research institutions in the country would examine and generate their own data. Environment Minister Anil Dave is reported to have stated that 10.90 lakh premature deaths in 2015 are based on “extrapolation without scientific evidence”.  He stated that the Ministry is working with the health ministry in assessing the impact of air pollution and a report was awaited.


It needs to be mentioned here that India does not have the scope of denying air pollution-linked health hazards. The available report on the issue relates to an epidemiological study on ambient air quality and its impact on children in Delhi prepared by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata way back in 2010. However, the report did not speak about specific number of deaths in the country. In August 2015, the Environment Ministry informed Parliament that more than 35,000 people had died due to acute respiratory infections across India in over nine years from January 2006 to mid-2015.


Whatever the Government may say, there is no reason whatsoever to challenge the authenticity of the global report as well-known international institutions have been involved in collating it. The research base of these institutions would be difficult to challenge by Indian organisation like say the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In fact, apart from Delhi and a few metros, the CPCB shockingly does not have the basic infrastructure to carry out such an in-depth study.


The Government reviewing at least the international findings is welcome, but at the same time it must simultaneously outline steps to control air pollution, specially in the metros. Heavy vehicles including trucks as well as auto rickshaws in metros are prime sources of air pollution and this has gone unchecked. Add to this is industrial pollutants, which are regularly being discharged into the major rivers of the country such as the Ganga and Yamuna.


Recently, the Supreme Court directed all State Pollution Control Boards to inspect all industrial units discharging effluents and check if each unit had a functional ETP (effluent treatment plant), giving a time limit of three months. The bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, directed that power supply to errant units should be discontinued if ETPs were inoperative or not functioning at the desired level required to treat effluents before discharge into rivers and water bodies.


It cannot be denied that the situation is quite grim in the country as recent reports of Delhi, Kolkata and Patna have pointed out. A study by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley found people’s exposure to vehicle exhaust in Kolkata three-four times higher than the world average and highest among Indian metros followed by Delhi. According to the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), Kolkata has to reduce its annual average pollution levels by 44 per cent to be able to meet the clean air standards against 36 per cent by Hyderabad and 33 per cent by Mumbai. Delhi has the toughest task of reducing by 72 per cent followed by Bengaluru 54 per cent.


The most alarming part is that the increase in such air pollution affects the poorer sections that live in pavements, slums and squatter settlements are exposed more to such pollution, causing various types of diseases. Obviously, the treatment they get, in most cases, is negligible, resulting in deaths.


With disease burden increasing in the country, there is need for enforcement of stringent regulations that could check air pollution and keep the temperature in the cities under control. There is world-wide cry to bring down emissions but the concerns of most State Governments are not matched with definite actions. Meanwhile, the temperature of the cities is destined to reach 470 C+ in most cities while in some it may reach 500C this year. However, the Central Government is trying to counter international findings without any judicious logic with formulating any action plan.


The future is no doubt quite grim as no solution appears to be in sight. The Government has to take note of this grim scenario and immediately come out with a strategic plan to tackle the problem so that the poor are not overburdened with diseases and spared the burden of extra expenditure for no fault of theirs. Also, industrial houses that are responsible for increasing emissions have to be compelled to take action as per the laws of the land and violations severely dealt with.


Scientists and environmentalists must study the global reports and not allow the Ministry to juggle around with reasoning. At the same time, they must join hands to pressurise the Government to take prompt action and not play around with people’s lives. The Government would do well to remember the adage: A stitch in time saves nine. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT