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Don’t trust foreign air pollution data, says environment minister

Anil Madhav Dave calls for greater faith in air pollution studies from Indian institutions and urges people to trust India’s institutions as much as the Indian Army, but fails to provide alternative data

Updated: Feb 21, 2017 19:51 IST

The environment minister today attacked people’s reliance on foreign studies and media to talk about the problem of air pollution in India, saying foreign reports must not be treated a certificates.

“We tend to believe reports on the impact of air pollution by foreign agencies and media and we do not rely on our own institutions,” said Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave , speaking to reporters on Tuesday. “We should rely on Indian institutions, we trust our institutions and we will act based on them. We trust them as much as we trust the Indian army.”

When questioned minister, however, could not list a single study done in India that had generated data about how many deaths in India can at least partially be attributed to air pollution.

A study in The Lancet qouted WHO data to day Patna and Delhi have the worst levels of pollution. The annual PM 2.5 levels in the two cities were found to be more than 10 times the permissible limits laid down by WHO. The study showed that more than one million Indians die annually because of air pollution, which is an average of two air pollution deaths each daily.

The 2015 Global Burden of Disease report estimated that PM2.5 contribute to 4.2 million deaths globally, more than half of which occur in India and China.

READ: India and China have half of pollution related deaths http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-s-air-rivals-china-s-as-deadliest-in-the-world-study/story-IDuIqz6laBbIfe1RqKNHjN.html

‘’There is no conclusive data available in the country to establish a direct co-relationship of death exclusively with air pollution,” Dave had told Parliament earlier this month. He again reiterated that there are no studies that prove that air pollution is solely responsible for deaths while acknowledging that it impacts people’s health.

Greenpeace released a study this year that said that it wasn’t just the big cities where air pollution is a problem, but also smaller cities. Of the 94 cities ranked by the Central Pollution Control Board based on data from 2011-15, Gwalior had the worst pollution problem.

CPCB Chairman, S.P. Singh, explained that these studies were based on data from a few monitoring stations and data from satellite imagery that may not be validated on the ground.

The environment minister also expressed helplessness in the face of a federal structure and noted that local bodies are responsible for implementation. “It is not a priority for local authorities,” he said. “We want to make it a priority.”

The government may not know how many people are dying primarily because of air pollution in India but there is some sense of how much GDP loss India was suffering because of the problem. In December, Anupriya Patel, the state minister for health and family welfare, in her reply to parliament quoted from the World Bank Disaster Management and Climate Change Unit Report, which said that the health costs from particulate matter pollution was estimated to be 3% of the country’s GDP. The damage to the environment was pegged at R. 3.75 trillion which is about 5.7% of India’s GDP.