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Mainstream, VOL LX No 23, New Delhi, May 28, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 28, 2022

Friday 27 May 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, May 28, 2022

The world renowned health journal The Lancet just published a new report on the impact of pollution on health [1]. This study uses data from 2019 data to update its 2017 findings of the Lancet Commission on pollution and health. It reports that 9 million deaths happened worldwide due to air pollution and finds that deaths from pollution risk factors have gone up by 7 per cent since 2015. The Lancet report says that 1.6 million deaths occurred in 2019 in India due to air pollution, a majority of these deaths were caused by ambient air pollution —fine particle matter floating in the air (PM2.5). Household air pollution is found to be the next largest cause of deaths in the country. It gives a figure for 2019 of economic costs of air pollution to the Indian economy at $36.8 billion equivalent to economic losses of 1.3 per cent of India’s GDP. In much of India, pollution levels are found to be well above WHO guidelines, there is an urgent need for strict regulation to curb fossil fuel generated pollution, smoke and coal dust and dust from construction activity and chemical pollution. There has to be very rigorous training of personnel and practical means to implement these controls. Difficult to imagine this in times when the state has nearly wound up inspections of workplaces and factories and loosened up environmental protection norms and gone in for self-certification. It is tragic that even in 2022 the environmental question is practically missing from the programmes and public stance staking of all political parties in India. Reduction of air pollution could lead to substantial health benefits and economic gains, but this can only happen when there is sustained political and public pressure on private firms, and also on society and government.

May 28, 2022 – HK

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