India-US can do much for preventing air pollution: Diplomat

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) Calling for large scale public awareness about air pollution, a senior US diplomat praised India on Tuesday for launching its own Air Quality Index (AQI) last year, saying that the issue is now getting a high-level political focus.

Stressing on the need to weave policies around data, US embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Michael P. Pelletier said that air pollution is an area where the US and India can do much together.

“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.

The diplomat quoted “Global Commission on the Economy and Climate-2014” report, which estimated the economic costs of air pollution at six percent of the GDP.

“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.

He said that the US Agency for International Development is processing grant proposals to help US and Indian scientists better understand ambient air pollution.

“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.

Drawing similarities between the US leadership’s initiatives in 1960 to India’s in 2015, in terms of economic plans and environmental awareness, he recalled the renowned environmentalist Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”, 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 lauded the odd-even scheme in Delhi and congratulated Delhiites effort 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.”

–IANS

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