The world, based on a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last December, observed the 'International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies' for the first time on September 7. It is a global celebration aimed at working together to build a pollution-free future.
As the urban population rise, clean air and blue skies are becoming increasingly scarce for many parts of India over the last few decades. As winter dawns upon India, air quality shoots across India due to various factors.
In India, ailments triggered by air pollution prematurely kills more than 12 lakh people a year—the joint-highest on Earth, alongside China.
However, COVID-19 lockdown has given a glimpse of a clean future. Experts agree that clean air and blue skies are goals that India can not afford to ignore.
'Sustainability is the future of the economy'
Talking about how sustainability is the future of the economy, Shloka Nath, Executive Director of India Climate Collaborative said, "The World Economic Forum in July released a report that claimed half of the global GDP, that is USD 44 trillion, is threatened by anthropogenic activities. We need to start catalyzing additional finance for climate action in India."
He added, "The government can take measures like creating a green finance task force, currently this is being done by the UK government which has joined hands with the city of London to create a roadmap for promoting green finance, advocating necessary measures for it, and also promoting the city of London as a green finance hub. This can easily be replicated in India. There is a need to develop a green finance strategy that can be developed by Niti Aayog. The key will be in making people realise that there is availability of options for investment in green finance."
'Clean public transportation initiatives are steps in the right direction'
According to Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer of Mahindra Group, clean public transportation initiatives like metros in many cities, electrification of Indian railways are steps in the right direction.
"80% of the public in Mumbai travels by local trains. If those are converted to electric, these are real solutions for change. When cars came on the streets there were no petrol pumps, both developed simultaneously. Electric cars will also develop like this. And for most people they will charge their cars either at home or at offices, the charging infrastructure will mostly be for public transport modes. So there is already a charging infrastructure in place for this transition," he said.
Paul Abraham, President of Hinduja Foundation said, “Natural infrastructures like water bodies, forests, biodiversity, have great potential for jobs and boost the economy and are well worth preserving. These need to be applied with outcomes-based finance, like developing social impact and development bonds in terms of bringing the stakeholders and the whole community from one point to another in terms of restoring a water body or preserving a forest or a piece of land. Converting this into an economic argument has been a challenge but we have evolved to be able to evaluate this now. For eg if we lose a 100 sq km forest stretch then we have the ability to calculate the economic loss of that.”