Air pollution is a serious problem in India and calls for nationwide action, a leading public health expert said as the World Environmental Health Day is being observed on Sunday.
K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation think tank told Anadolu Agency that environmental pollution is an important area of concern concerning the public health point of view in the country and more steps are needed to deal with the problem.
'It is certainly bad in some parts of the country where air pollution levels are quite high and they need to be brought down. In other parts too, where they are somewhat lower but still exceed WHO norms, action is needed to reduce pollution levels to reduce health hazards,' said Reddy.
'It calls for all India action except for some places, where their quality is very good. There are many places with poor air quality ... we need to undertake action to improve the air quality.'
Air pollution, especially in the national capital of New Delhi, has become a serious problem which worsens during the winter from November to January.
A report by the Lancet medical journal said last year that air pollution killed 1.7 million Indians in 2019.
According to Reddy, two types of pollution that are particularly of concern: ambient air pollution or outdoor air pollution and indoor air pollution. 'Both are produced by different causes and they are causing several health-related problems,' he said.
Stating that outdoor pollution levels differ from one part of the country to another, Reddy said urban pollution levels are more, but 'rural pollution levels are also increasing.'
He said the priority should be right now to control all sources of emission of pollution as much as possible.
'It is not a question of sources of emission only but we must also look at the exposure. Who is the population which is more exposed? If a factory is situated in a remote area and is not surrounded by a thickly populated area, the emission may be high, but the impact will be slow. On the other hand, if a factory is situated in a crowded area, the exposure will be much higher,' he said. 'Even if the garbage is burning, if it comes to a nearby urban area, the exposure will be much higher.'
He stressed that there is a need to look at emission sources and the level of exposure to the public.
'We should try and mitigate as much as possible the sources of pollution and ensure we don't have sources of pollution located in highly populated areas,' said the expert.
Maintaining that policies to control pollution exist, Reddy noted that there is a need to do more.
'Policies are there. They (government) are trying to put counter policies in place,' he said.
'A few years back, a health ministry committee of which I was also part -- we suggested a multisector kind of multi-sectoral kind of action, which is now developed and adopted by the health ministry with other ministries. (NITI) Ayog has developed a plan. so they are trying to implement as much as possible and reduce the sources of pollution. But, we need to do more,' he added referring to the government's main policy think-tank,
The federal government in December said it 'has been taking all steps possible to combat air pollution in Delhi and North India and is working toward deploying all possible technological interventions towards that'.
'Through the National Clean Air Programme, which is a city-specific plan, is working in that direction with a target to achieve 20 to 30% reduction in PM (particulate matter)10 and PM2.5 concentrations by 2024,' said then-Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar.
Reddy’s message on World Environment Day is the need of the hour is to reverse the damage done to the environment.
'Without protecting the environment, human health will be damaged in many, many ways and it will not only affect the people who are currently living, but it will also affect the generations to come,' he said, adding that it is very important 'we protect and preserve the environment, reverse the damage which we have done to the extent possible.'
By Ahmad Adil in New Delhi