The WHO says that 3 million people die each year due to ambient air pollution, and in India, an estimated 1.5 million people died from the effects of air pollution in 2012. But the Centre’s draft for the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) states that linking air pollution to mortality needs more “indigenous studies”, challenging global research.
The draft NCAP observations on health impact are at variance with a Ministry of Health steering committee report on air pollution and health-related issues of August 2015. The report — which involved all related ministries including MoEF — pointed to the “growing volume of studies in India” that have examined the health effects of ambient and household air pollution over the last decades, and said “there are now accepted techniques to derive estimates of health effects in India by reference to health effects studies done elsewhere”.
The NCAP draft, however, notes that many international studies often report data on mortality due to air pollution exposure, and “these studies use extrapolation techniques for air quality and health/disease related data, which probably may not be realistic”. It adds that “more authentic Indian data and studies may further strengthen our efforts and public participation in improving air quality”.
MoEF secretary C K Mishra told The Indian Express, “There is no one-to-one correlation between air pollution and mortality. But there is definitely a correlation between pollution and ill-health. Therefore, whether we want to count the number of deaths or not is irrelevant.”
An explicit discussion on health impact of air pollution was also missing from agenda of a two-day stakeholder meet, involving state governments, air pollution experts and MoEF, that ended Friday. The meet discussed area-specific standards, satellite monitoring, high-resolution inventory for Indo-Gangetic plains and global success stories. “It was also pointed out that studies show that pollution in cities is deeply influenced by emissions from surrounding regions other than local multi-sectoral pollution sources, necessitating the need for a multi-city, multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder coordination,” said a note issued at end of the meet.