Air pollution kills more than one lakh children under the age of five in India every year, and it is responsible for 12.5% of all deaths in the country, the Centre for Science and Environment said in a report published on Tuesday on the eve of World Environment Day. On an average, 8.5 out of every 10,000 children die because of bad air before they turn five, but the figure for girls is even higher, at 9.6 per 10,000.
The think tank reported a 22% increase in India’s greenhouse gas emissions between 2010 and 2014. It added that the government’s schemes to fight air pollution have not been successful yet, which is also acknowledged by the environment ministry, PTI reported. In April, Boston-headquartered Health Effects Institute released a study that said air pollution killed 1.2 million people in India in 2017.
According to review papers published by Forum of International Respiratory Societies in February, air pollution can potentially affect every organ and cell in the body. Dr Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation’s director of public and environmental health, told The Guardian last month that the conclusions drawn by the researchers represent “very strong science”. “It adds to the very heavy evidence we have already,” she said. “There are more than 70,000 scientific papers to demonstrate that air pollution is affecting our health.”
Meanwhile, the report by the Centre for Science and Environment also painted a grim picture of the Centre’s fight against the climate crisis. “With just 10 years to go, India is yet to identify indicators to track its climate change preparedness,” it said. “Of the 13 sustainable development goals the country is tracking, indicators exist for only a handful of the targets.”
The think tank pointed out that both surface water and groundwater in the country are under stress, with 86 critically polluted water bodies. “The bulk of the polluted water bodies are in Karnataka, Telangana and Kerala,” it said. “One of the reasons is the substantial increase – 136% – in the number of grossly polluting industries between 2011 and 2018.”
Groundwater, which runs 94.5% of all minor irrigation schemes in the country, is being overexploited, the think tank added. “There has been an unsustainable increase in the number of deep tubewells that has gone up by 80% between 2006-’07 and 2013-’14.”