EVEN AS he acknowledged that the health impacts of air pollution were “real” and “dangerous”, Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave on Friday contested some of the numbers presented in a new global report, which has identified India as the worst affected country and attributed more than a million deaths in the country in 2015 to air pollution. Dave said he was happy that air pollution in India was getting attention but it was “difficult to say whether a million people have died or half-a-million people have died”. He said he would rather believe research conducted by Indian institutions to establish numbers like these.
“The government is very aware of the problem of air pollution and we are already taking a number of steps to deal with it. There is no doubt that air pollution is a big concern, not just in Delhi but also in many other cities of the country… But I am not sure about these numbers that come out in these international reports. We have our own institutions working on air pollution and I would like to trust them more,” Dave told The Indian Express.
The minister said he was not questioning any of the reports, which he described as “good academic exercises” that have helped in raising awareness about the problem. However, government policies could not be framed solely on the findings of international reports, he maintained. “We have an ongoing plan of action and are continuously thinking about what kind of approaches will bring the most benefits… In a way, this report is not telling us anything new. We are aware of the problem and taking action,” he said.
The first-ever State of Global Air report by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, released earlier this week, said air pollution has become the leading environmental cause of death worldwide, with India and China accounting for more than 50 per cent of all deaths attributed to air pollution. It said that India now “rivalled” China for the dubious distinction of carrying the “highest air pollution health burden” in the world.
Meanwhile, Dave’s cabinet colleague, Harshvardhan, said it was clear that much more needed to be done to check air pollution. He said he had been associated with the World Health Organisation for many years and takes publications by WHO and other reputed international organisations quite seriously. “Our government is quite active on reducing air pollution. But a lot more needs to be done. And we are in the process of taking more steps, strict steps,” he said on the sidelines of a function.