Anil Dave can no longer pretend that pollution doesn’t kill
The Global Burden of Disease study says India’s pollution causes nearly 1.1 million premature deaths every year. In December environment minister Anil Madhav Dave told Rajya Sabha that there was no “credible” study to quantify the number of deaths caused directly as a result of air pollution. The new report is fresh evidence for the minister to finally accept that pollution is a giant killereditorials Updated: Feb 15, 2017 18:17 IST
The bad news on the pollution front continues: India’s air now rivals China’s as the world’s deadliest, according to a new study published on Tuesday amid warnings that efforts to curb pollution from coal won’t yield results any time soon. India’s poor air quality causes nearly 1.1 million premature deaths every year, almost on par with China, concluded a joint report by two US-based health research institutes. More crucially, where deaths linked to air pollution in China have steadied in recent years, the rate has soared in India where smog readings in major cities routinely eclipse safe exposure levels. India has recorded a nearly 50% increase in premature deaths linked to PM2.5 -- fine particles that lodge deep in the lungs -- between 1990 and 2015, the report added.
Pollution in New Delhi in November reached crisis levels, with crop burning, car exhaust, dust and coal plants blamed for the record smog. The government shuttered schools and temporarily closed a coal-fired power plant as a stop gap, but experts say the energy-hungry nation will need to do more if it’s to clean the air for India’s 1.25 billion people. India’s problem is that it is --- and will remain for years to come --- a coal-based economy. This is because coal is cheap and also that renewables are not going to be expanding fast enough for the country to reverse the problem. India, however, should have expected this kind of a report, since, for a couple of years, satellite data has been showing that the average particulate matter exposure was going up in the country. As pollution travels hundreds of kilometers, experts have called for national, regional and city-level action plans with measurable targets to lower pollution levels.
But for any countrywide plan, the first thing that would be needed is to acknowledge the link that exists between air pollution and health of citizens. However, that is somehow missing. In December, environment minister Anil Madhav Dave told Rajya Sabha that there is no “credible” study to quantify the number of deaths caused directly as a result of air pollution. “Lung and allied diseases are affected by a number of factors such as smoking, hereditary factors, lifestyle, occupation, socio-economic status, immunity levels, medical history etc. besides air pollution,” he added. The new report is fresh evidence for the minister to finally accept that pollution is a giant killer and we are losing the battle with every passing day.