Experts from various south Asian countries Thursday stressed on the need for regional collaboration for fighting air pollution and agreed that people in the region can live longer if the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on air quality were met.
Average life expectancy in India could increase by 5.2 years and in Delhi by 9.4 years if the WHO standards on air quality are achieved, they said.
A discussion took place during a webinar on “Air Quality in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges”, organised by Lung Care Foundation, where experts from India, the USA, Sri Lanka and Pakistan got together to find a collective solution to tackle air pollution in South Asia.
During the discussion, Michael Greenstone, Director of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), said air pollution was reducing life expectancy in several countries.
“Air pollution causes people to lead a shorter life. Particulate pollution comes from energy use. Particulate matter air pollution is the single greatest threat to human health globally.”
“1.9 years of life expectancy is lost every year globally due to particulate pollution, followed by smoking, alcohol and other issues. India’s life expectancy can go up by 5.2 years if (WHO) norms are followed,” Greenstone said, sharing EPIC’s report on Air Quality Life Index.
As per the report, if Delhi complied with the WHO air quality standard, people could live around 9.4 years longer, said Greenstone.
Similarly, average life expectancy in countries like Pakistan and Nepal could go up by 2.8 years and 4.6 years if the WHO guidelines were met, he said.
Among other speakers was David Kennedy, Minister Counseler for Public Affairs, US Embassy, New Delhi, who said improved health quality and air quality is the priority of the US government.
“Air pollution does not respect borders. If it is to be controlled, it requires consistent long-term focus by all sections of society, frontline workers, media, students, everyone. US-India development relationship goes back to many years.
“The US government has partnered with India on improving health systems. The engagement between India and the US focuses on better monitoring of data on air pollution,” he said.
Other panelists in the discussion were Christopher Commins, Economic Officer, US Embassy; Ranil Dhammapala, Air Quality Fellow, US Embassy, Colombo Sri Lank; and Abid Omar, Founder, Pakistan Air Quality Initiative (PAQI).
They suggested that expanding knowledge through low cost air quality monitors should be the priority to engage more public in fighting it.
“The more data we give, the more awareness there will be. Increase source apportionment understanding. If you understand what the sources of pollution are, policies can be made accordingly, involving polluters in the solution,” said Commins.
His view was shared by Omar, who said installing low cost air quality monitoring systems in Pakistan helped engage better with the community.
He said spreading awareness among people through data sharing and regional collaboration was the way forward to reduce pollution in south Asia.
Similarly, Greenstone made suggestions to reduce air pollution and also highlighted the measures taken by EPIC in collaboration with India.
“EPIC is undertaking measures to resolve the problem of pollution like providing regulators with real time data on emission. CEMS (continuous emissions monitoring system) makes it possible to calculate pollution emitted by factory over a period of time.
“Pollution information must be disclosed publicly. If public does not know who is violating the norms, it is tough to create pressure. Information should be shared in public domain about plants emitting pollution. Rating of industries should be done to classify them,” he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)