Pay particular focus on particulate matter

Air pollution is a stubborn problem requiring strong policies backed by a stronger willingness to change. The 2022 Air Quality Life Index released last week finds that contrary to perceptions, air pollution in South Asia rose in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Poor air quality is reducing life expectancy by an average of five years. Aggressive and across-the-board action is necessary. As a first step, GoI must make the targets set under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) legally binding, committing state governments and local authorities to result-oriented action.

Average annual particulate pollution has increased by 61.4% since 1998. Since 2013, about 44% of the world’s increase in pollution can be attributed to India. GoI recognises the hazard of air pollution and its impact, but its actions are neither strong nor fast enough. NCAP targets reducing particulate pollution by 20-30%, relative to 2017 levels, by 2024. Another misconception is that air pollution is a seasonal problem.

It is not, the same way disease is not always evident as symptom. Addressing the problem requires an airshed approach identifying pollution sources and reducing pollution at these sources. It will require making improved material resource efficiency integral to the economy. Measures that use resources for longer periods and reduce waste in the system will directly impact air quality. Actions such as improved public transport and higher renewable energy use can direct things the right way.

Pollution is one of three environmental crises impacting the world. Improving air quality in India and South Asia would improve life expectancy, life quality and productivity. It is critical to India’s development agenda and plans to spur its economy.


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