India will conduct its first study on impact of environment on health even though monitoring on air and water pollution is inadequate.
The Environment ministry has decided to conduct such a study but has failed to implement its mandate for the 11th five year plan.
As per the plan, India was to have at least 1,000 air monitoring covering 500 cities and 2,000 water quality monitoring stations by end of 2012.
Till now, India has 461 air monitoring covering 115 cites and 1,359 water monitoring stations and there has been no capacity addition to monitor pollutants, which impact health the most such as particulate matter (PM) of 2.5 microns, ozone, mercury, benzene and organic compounds.
“Monitoring of these pollutants should be extended to at lease 76 cities,” the Planning Commission said, in the 11th five year plan document. S P Gautam, chairperson of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), admitted that they will not be able to meet the target citing shortage of funds.
The CPCB existing pollution monitoring mechanism is also in dire straits with its cost increasing to around Rs 30 crore, which is about 75 % of the pollution watchdog’s entire budget. “There has been no increase in our budget in the last two years although the work has increased,” an official said.
Its impact is that India comprehensively monitors only four basic pollutants --- Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Suspended Particular Matter and Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter --- with emerging health threats such as PM 2.5 being ignored. Quality of air in 70 % of Indian cities is worse than the World Health Organisation’s air quality level for good health.
In case of water, India monitors few places on 200 rivers, 60 lakes, three ponds, 13 canals, 20 drains and 500 wells. “It is less than five percent of water bodies we have,” Planning Commission member in-charge of water, Mihir Shah said recently.
The level of water pollution can also be gauged from the fact that India has capacity to treat just 20 % of the sewage generated. Of this, 40 % is in Delhi alone. “Our water bodies are among dirtiest in the world,” Environment minister Jairam Ramesh admitted recently.
Countries such as United States and Europe monitor over 15-25 types of air pollutants and almost all river and lakes.
On Friday, the ministry decided that Indian Council for Medical Research and Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) will do research on environment impact on health of Indians. “We are also required to build capacity to create awareness about health impacts of all types of pollution including climate change,” said K Srinath Reddy, chairperson of PHFI. A formal Memorandum of Understanding is expected to be signed for the joint research with the ministry later this month.
Ramesh said the study was important as there is very little research in India on health impacts of pollution and it has hampered to a policy to deal with emerging health threats from bad environment.