On an average, an Indian would live 5.2 years longer if the country’s air quality is brought with compliance to the standard set by the World Health Organization(WHO), says Michael Greenstone, Director of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. He described particulate air pollution as the single greatest threat. Greenstone was one of the top experts from the US, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, on Thursday talking about air quality in South Asia in a webinar ‘Air Qualities in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenge’.
“Air pollution causes people to lead shorter and sicker lives,” he said. “5.5 billion people currently live in areas that exceed the WHO safe guidelines for small-particulate pollution. Across the entire planet, an average person loses 1.9 years of life expectancy to particulate air pollution that is more than what people lose from smoking.”
David Kennedy, Minister Counsellor for Public Affairs US Embassy, said improving air qualities requires cooperation from within the countries and across regions. “It requires consistent long term focus, actions and attention by all sections of societies, policymakers, health professionals, frontline activists’, media students and every member of the public,” he explained.
“The United States and India have a very close relationship, anchored at the mutual trust, shared interests, goodwill and robust engagement in our citizens. The engagement between India and the US focuses on better monitoring of data on air pollution.” Another expert, Ranil Dhammapala, Air Quality Fellow, said artificial intelligence would revolutionise air quality monitoring and help people make an informed decision.
Regional cooperation is the key to improved air qualities. And most importantly, air pollution does not respect borders, cities, states or countries. Air pollution is indeed a problem in Southeast Asia with Indian and Chinese cities contributing heavily towards regional pollution. Steps are being taken by both nations to keep a tab and lessen pollution.