According to a study published by the US-based Health Effects Institute on Tuesday, 2.2 million Chinese and Indians died from air pollution in 2015—more than half the global total. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Data collected in past years by bodies such as the World Health Organization has shown the extent of the problem in India.
But while China is mounting a concerted effort to address the issue, the same can’t be said of India. Knee-jerk policies whose impact is doubtful, such as Delhi’s odd-even scheme, don’t count. In fact, they only highlight one of the problems—the fact that the pollution debate is largely restricted to Delhi and a handful of other major cities.
There must be an effort to collect comprehensive, nationwide data, because the causes of pollution can be quite localized. Alongside, there must be a holistic strategy—from clean fuel sources for cooking stoves to urban transport solutions. Without these, the annual winter air quality debate will remain an empty ritual.