(AFP file)
(AFP file)

Opinion | Breathing bad

According to the United Nations, nine of every 10 people on the planet breathe polluted air, which accounts for nearly seven million deaths per year

If dismal data on our air quality is not enough to spook us, then the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, 5 June, ought to make us take stock of the grave consequences of bad air. According to the United Nations, nine of every 10 people on the planet breathe polluted air, which accounts for nearly seven million deaths per year. The call for us to “Beat Air Pollution", this year’s theme, should not go unheeded. According to a recent World Health Organization report, Indian urban spaces are the worst afflicted. India is home to nine of the world’s 10 most polluted cities, with urban smog having claimed over 1.2 million lives in 2017.

There are various sources of air pollution. Vehicular emissions, industrial chimneys, the smoke of crop residue being burnt and dust-ups caused by construction activity are some of them. Meanwhile, a depleting green cover handicaps nature’s ability to fight back. This January, the Indian government came up with a policy document titled “National Clean Air Programme" that made an assessment of the menace and set a reduction target of 20-30% of air particulate concentrations by 2024, but failed to outline a workable strategy or mechanism to achieve its goal.

On a parallel plane, the hidden costs imposed by air pollution are rising sharply. As per a 2015 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, the cost of human health complications arising from particulate pollution is estimated at 3% of India’s gross domestic product. Given the urgency of the issue, it falls upon the government to act before our urban spaces choke us.

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