A senior US diplomat has praised India for its own Air Quality Index (AQI), which was launched last year, as he called for large public awareness about air pollution. US embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Michael P Pelletier has said that the issue is now getting a high-level political focus. Pelletier stressed on the need to weave policies around data and said that US and India together can do much more in the area of air pollution.
"The Indian government is publicly recognizing the problem in a much more frank and open manner than has ever been the case in the past. The attention that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has devoted to air pollution when he announced India's new AQI, shows that this issue is getting high-level political focus needed for effective action," Pelletier said at a workshop launched by the US embassy to combat air pollution.
A "Global Commission on the Economy and Climate-2014" report, which estimates the economic costs of air pollution at six per cent of the GDP, was quoted by the diplomat. "Losses due to premature death from air pollution alone - not including the costs of health care or the losses associated with the grinding suffering of chronic disease - is almost 6 percent of GDP, which nearly cancels out India's strong rate of economic growth," he said.
"In 2014, the World Health Organization linked air pollution to 7 million deaths worldwide every year. The Global Burden of Disease Report, which is considered the gold standard in global epidemiology, found that air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is among the world's ten largest health risk factors," he said adding that such details should attract the attention of policy makers as they assess the cost-benefit analysis of a range of policy options.
Grant proposals to help US and Indian scientists better understand ambient air pollution is being processed by the US Agency for International Development, he said. "Indian and American scientists are studying this question in both countries as well. The recently launched Fulbright-Kalam Climate Fellowship will allow Indian and American scholars to engage in scientific and technical research related to climate change," he said.
He drew similarities between the initiatives taken by the US leadership in 1960 and India’s in 2015, in terms of economic plans and environmental awareness. He recalled the book titled "Silent Spring" by the renowned environmentalist Rachel Carson as it has been credited for modern environmental movement and the America's Clean Air Act 1970.
"Passing and implementing these laws was never easy, but in subsequent decades the nation's economy has grown fourfold, while pollution levels are a quarter of what they were in the sixties."
"Every dollar the government invested to implement the Clean Air Act has generated $30 dollars in benefits. In sum, the Clean Air Act has yielded $2 trillion in benefits, almost all of them related to lives saved, diseases avoided, and worker productivity boosted," he said.
He also praised the odd-even scheme launched by the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi and lauded the efforts of Delhiites to make it a success. "I admire Delhiites efforts to participate in the odd-even schemes and I am proud that our team at the American Embassy took measures to voluntarily comply with the directive."