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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Opinion | A deadly distinction

While action needs to be taken, policymakers have displayed little urgency on the matter

A non-government advocacy group working on pollution and health issues has revealed just how badly India fares on these. According to a report by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), based on a study that estimated the impact of contaminants in the air, water and workplace, India tops the world’s chart on pollution-linked deaths, followed by China and Nigeria. More than 2.3 million premature deaths caused by pollution were reported in India in 2017, the latest year for which the figures are available. In comparison, about 1.9 million people died in China, while in Nigeria the death count was 279,318, according to the report. Pakistan and Bangladesh also found place in the list at fifth and sixth positions, with 223,836 and 207,922 deaths, respectively. The US and Russia were seventh and eighth.

India’s figures highlight the gravity of the crisis we face. While action needs to be taken, policymakers have displayed little urgency on the matter. Most public discourse centres on questionable short-term measures, like an odd-even scheme for private vehicles, while efforts to stop stubble-burning by farmers have yielded very few gains.

China has a severe crisis of pollution until just a few years ago, but has managed to exert control over the problem. India, however, has yet to formulate a credible policy mix that could achieve demonstrable results. Cases of respiratory diseases, especially among the elderly and children, are on the rise. Other health complications have arisen too. If India is to establish itself as a country of doers, containing pollution is one of the first things to be done.

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