Centre’s proposed study should bare the facts
Though the Union Government has decided to conduct its own comprehensive study on the impact of air pollution on people's lives in the country, it cannot altogether dismiss the larger picture that international studies have recently presented: That the levels of pollution are such that they have become a severe health hazard across the country. It should be hoped that the study the Government conducts will be driven by the need to seek the truth and not camouflage it. It is possible that certain global bodies may have done their research with less nobility than would be expected of them. It's also possible that some of the findings may not necessarily be rooted in a scientific approach and could be back-of-the-envelope calculations.
Nonetheless, it would be unwise to dismiss everything that sounds alarmist or negative. The Government's study must not be with the desire to rubbish the international agencies' claims but to establish the ground reality. Clean environment has been a pet wish of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His emphasis, for instance, on green and renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power, is commendable. The Smart Cities project too is supposed to create urban centres that are also environmentally smart — besides having other trappings such as world-class civic amenities, transportation etc. In fact, even these trappings highlight the need for clean environment. For example, if an effective public transportation system can cut public dependence on private vehicles, it will reduce traffic congestion and add positively to the reduction of air pollution. The smog and the fumes which enter the lungs of people and cause medical problems will be addressed in at least one way. Similarly, a good garbage disposal system can contribute to reducing pollutants in the air.
One international study has claimed that air pollution directly led to 1.1 million premature deaths in the country in 2015. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has taken exception to this finding, saying that it is based on “extrapolation without scientific validation”. The Ministry also holds the belief that several deaths that have been attributed to air pollution may have been caused by respiratory failure of other kinds, not necessarily related to pollution. The Minister concerned, Anil Dave, is right when he says that while he does not wish to discredit the international agencies, “a proud country always trusts its own data and takes action on it”. He may also be right in saying that air pollution is not “rocket science”. But he must also not forget that over the decades, India has not done too well in tackling this menace. Such has been the deteriorating situation that the Supreme Court has had to step in from time to time to persuade Government agencies to act. But then, it's not just the Centre but also the State Governments which have to take corrective measures. That's unfortunately not been happening to a desirable extent.