With pollution in air, govt to study air in 20 cities

With pollution in air, govt to study air in 20 cities

A view of Rajpath lawns engulfed in smog, in New Delhi, on Friday. The national capital is engulfed in haze and deadly air pollution with the onset of winters and festival season. PTI

Galvanised by the high mortality rates due to air pollution, the central government is all set for a reality check through a domestic study of air quality in 20 cities. Such a check would help know if the alarmist picture painted by international studies is true.

To be conducted over a period of three years, the study would involve some of the country's best hospitals, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi; King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

“The protocol for the study would be finalised at a meeting on October 31 where the principal investigators would be present,” T K Joshi, adviser to Union Environment Ministry told DH on the sidelines of an event at the Central Pollution Control Board.

Read more: Delhi to breathe easy as stubble burning incidents drop

The proposed study comes in the wake of a series of reports and studies, including several by the World Health Organisation (WHO), suggesting that air quality in Indian cities is among the worst in the world, killing millions.

In May, a WHO report on the air quality of 130 cities stated that 14 of the world's worst air cities are in India. While Delhi topped the list, other notorious places are Kanpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, Patna, Faridabad and Gaya. A surprising entry in the list was Srinagar from Jammu and Kashmir. Southern cities like Bengaluru and Chennai fared better.

The WHO said mortality due to air pollution in India is 184.3 per 100,000 which is way above the Chinese statistics of 112.7.

It is not that the WHO red-flagged India's air quality for the first time. In the past, several research studies too came up with a similar conclusion. One of the recent ones by the University of Texas found that ambient air pollution shortens an average Indian's life by over 1.5 years.

But in an affidavit to the Supreme Court last year, the Union Environment Ministry asked the court not to cite such international studies as a mark of air quality standards in India because it was difficult to link such huge number of deaths with air quality in Delhi.

The affidavit was submitted weeks after a study in the Lancet reported a figure of 1.81 million deaths in India due to air pollution.

Study on patients

The proposed study, Joshi said, would be based on in-patient data where patients admitted in hospital for heart disease, stroke and respiratory infection would be examined with respect to their exposure to the polluted air using air quality data generated by government agencies. The study would also include children admitted in the hospitals but exclude OPD patients.

Meanwhile, Central Pollution Control Board member secretary Prashant Gargava on Friday warned that Delhi's air quality is likely to worsen from Monday (October 29) onward as the meteorological data and stubble burning trends indicate.

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