Dedicated And Concerted Efforts Required To Achieve Clean Air: Suresh Prabhu

Speaking at the India Clean Air Summit 2021 the former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that there was an urgent need to address the root causes of poor air quality.

Planet Outlook
August 28, 2021
Dedicated And Concerted Efforts Required To Achieve Clean Air: Suresh Prabhu

The two-day India Clean Air Summit 2021 brought together policymakers, industry leaders, experts from the fields of climate, medicine and science who not only engaged on the issue of air pollution but also highlighted its long and short term health impacts.

The key aspects that came out of the (ICAS 2021) summit organized by the Center for Air Pollution Studies (CAPS) at the Center for the Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) held on August 26-27 was the fact that while clean air and water were the basic rights of every citizen, the ground situation was getting bad from worse.


Speaking on August 26 at the ICAS 2021 former MP and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that there was an urgent need to address the root causes of poor air quality.

“Air pollution can be tackled through better management. To solve this public health crisis, we must change the way we use energy, transportation and reduce industrial pollution,” he emphasized.

Prabhu who has successfully handled several ministries stated that solutions were available and change is possible. “But it will happen only with dedicated and concerted efforts we can achieve clean air,” he said giving the keynote address.

Climate change and air pollution are two sides of the same coin. Air pollution reduction policies can have co-benefits in terms of GHG emission reduction. In fact, at least 35% of PM2.5 in India is directly related to fossil fuels.

Organiser of the ICAS conference, Pratima Singh said, “The narrative for addressing Air Pollution needs to shift, and include the co-benefits of climate change and health impacts for making our air pollution policies stringent”.

 

India has many well-meaning policies, but regulatory and monitoring mechanisms which look at implementation of these policies and ground impact are also necessary.

“61% of the Indian population is still affected by household biomass burning”.  Dr Daniel S Greenbaum, President, Health Effects Institute (HEI) added this critical point and also mentioned that “pollution is a waste, it's an economic inefficiency in context to health and economic development. The government needs to control emission, they should be acting upon source not on ways in which these emissions can be captured – Emission reduction at source is the key”, Dr.Greenbaum added. 

The medical fraternity has been highlighting the need to address air pollution from the point of view of deteriorating public health. Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Institute of Chest Surgery; Co-Chairman, Medanta Robotic Institute; Founder and Managing Trustee, Lung Care Foundation said “Majority of my patients are so-called “non-smokers” now. (In reality) There is no true non-smoker in India. Everyone, including a new-born, is a smoker. The high PM2.5 levels are responsible for this.”

Throughout the ICAS conference, links of air pollution to a range of long term and short term health impacts were highlighted. With the ongoing global pandemic it was also mentioned that - covid related studies from China and across the world showed linear correlation between PM2.5 levels and COVID mortality which holds true for NOx levels as well.

A critical angle was the role of businesses in working with civil society and raising the ambition on solving air pollution. In this context, automobile industry representatives commented on pollution from vehicles

“We have to act today, not tomorrow. What we put on the road today will have an impact 15 years later because of the operation cycle of a vehicle.” - Mr Vikram Gulati, Country Head and Senior Vice President, Toyota Kirloskar Motor

The conference had several takeaways. The key being that the issue of air pollution knows no boundaries as well as the fact likethe gap between air pollution science and implementation of policy at government level is a multifaceted problem, and it needs work from all sectors and sides.

Across India, people are exposed to high levels of air pollution and it leads to significant health and economic impacts.