The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has expressed "deep shock" at the findings of the new Global Burden of Disease (GBD) count. The findings say air pollution has become one of the top 10 killers in the world — a three-fold increase in the last 10 years.
A CSE analysis says as much as 65% of total air pollution deaths occur in Asia and close to quarter of this in India.
A global initiative involving the World Health Organisation (WHO), the GBD tracks deaths and illnesses from all causes across the world. Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE's executive director-research and advocacy and head of its air pollution unit, said: "We need aggressive and most stringent action to protect public health."
In Delhi, the level of particulate matter less than 10 micron in size (PM10) has increased by 47% between 2000 and 2011, while the level of nitrogen dioxide has gone up by 57%.
The level of particulate matter less than 2.5 micron in size (PM2.5) is also exceeding the standard by 4-6 times.
“High levels of carbon monoxide, ozone and benzene levels are also playing havoc,” said Roychowdhury.
Despite all this, the Delhi government has not been quick in implementing immediate winter measures — part of a five-year plan to improve the Capital's air quality — which it had announced more than a month ago.
By now, the government should have put in place the immediate measures and submitted a status report.
Referring to the GBD data, Roychowdhury said: “Days of complacency are over. We must act urgently to reduce public health risks, especially for children, elderly and poor.”
The Delhi government and the CSE have prepared a 10-point draft action plan to meet the desired air quality in the Capital by 2017.
“We have discussed the 20-page draft and almost finalised it. After minor correction, this will go to the Cabinet for approval. The plan will be implemented soon,” said a senior government official.