Air pollution second biggest health risk in India: Report

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Air pollution is the second biggest factor affecting human health in India and its economic cost is estimated to exceed USD 150 billion annually, quoting a latest report news agency PTI reported.

The World Air Quality Report 2022, prepared by Swiss organization IQAir and released globally on Tuesday, found that India’s PM 2.5 level returned to pre-COVID lockdown concentrations measured in 2019.

“Air pollution has a massive impact on human health in India. It is the second biggest risk factor for disease, and the economic cost of air pollution is estimated to exceed USD 150 billion dollars annually,” it stated. The major sources of air pollution in India include vehicular emissions, power generation, industrial waste, biomass combustion for cooking, the construction sector, and episodic events like crop burning.

In 2019, the Environment Ministry enacted the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which seeks to reduce particulate matter (PM) concentrations by 20 to 30 per cent by 2024 in all identified non-attainment cities, increase air quality monitoring, and implement a city, regional, and state-specific clean air action plan as well as conduct source apportionment studies.

The report observed that the lockdowns, restrictions and the resulting economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult to determine NCAP’s impact based on air pollution levels alone. It said apart from city-specific action plans, no other plans have been formulated under NCAP prescribed timelines.

“Additionally, there is little information about the activities related to the NCAP, making it difficult to dispel the public’s dissatisfaction with the slow progress under the programme.

“It is estimated that 20 to 35 per cent of total urban PM2.5 concentrations is directly or indirectly due to internal combustion engines in motor vehicles. Annual vehicle sales in India are expected to increase, with an estimated fleet number reaching 10.5 million in 2030,” the report noted.

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