In a journey to safeguard public health, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is leading an initiative on pollution assessment. With a focus on 20 diverse cities, this venture under the National Environmental Health Profile Study opens up a meticulous exploration into the multifaceted impact of air pollution on human well-being. From the glittering urban landscapes to the serene corners of rural India, the study promises to link environmental factors to our collective health.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has greenlit a series of projects aimed at comprehensively assessing the impact of air pollution on human health. This initiative falls under the ambit of the National Environmental Health Profile Study, a meticulous examination of environmental factors influencing public health within specific regions. The study particularly focuses on air pollution and encompasses diverse facets.
In a strategic leap towards environmental health, a comprehensive array of control measures has been instated. Rigorous scrutiny encompasses monitoring mercury levels and exposure for pregnant women and newborns in selected coastal and South Indian cities. Simultaneously, a keen assessment delves into the bio-availability of Dioxin-like Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Dioxin, and Furan, emanating from the combustion of electronic waste. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) belong to a family of chemicals with similar toxicity and shared chemical traits. These substances aren’t intentionally manufactured; instead, they form as byproducts when other chemicals or products are created.
The cityscape of Tiruchirappalli undergoes meticulous examination, not just for air pollution but also for co-beneficial factors. The capital, Delhi, becomes a focal point for investigations, revealing the intricate impact of traffic emissions on the health of adolescents and dissecting the health effects of Diwali firecrackers.
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A parallel study by National Environmental Health Profile dissects the air quality impact on respiratory health due to crop residue burning near residential areas. The lens then shifts to the rural hinterlands of Northern and Eastern India, where a detailed analysis probes the health effects of chronic exposure to smoke from biomass fuel burning in households. Each endeavor contributes to a holistic understanding, forming a robust foundation for informed environmental policies and public health interventions.
In the pursuit of breathing cleaner air, the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), was launched in January 2019 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Aiming to elevate air quality standards across 131 cities in 24 states, the initiative is a concerted effort to engage all stakeholders. Originally set on a trajectory to achieve a 20-30% reduction in Particulate Matter (PM) concentration from the 2017 baseline by 2024, the NCAP has recalibrated its goals. The revised mission now charts a course to slash PM10 levels by up to 40% or achieve the national standards (60 µg/m³) by 2025-26.
As these cities collectively combat air pollution, they’ve crafted City Action Plans (CAPs) with a tailored approach, addressing specific sources of pollution like soil and road dust, vehicles, domestic fuel, waste burning, construction materials, and industries. Financial support, contingent on performance, is funneling into these urban centres to implement these plans. The financing is a mosaic, drawing from various central government schemes and state resources, encompassing missions like Swachh Bharat, AMRUT, Smart City, SATAT, FAME-II, Nagar Van Yojna, and more.
Simultaneously, the cities have established Public Grievance Redressal Portals and emergency response systems to ensure swift action in addressing public complaints and handling air emergencies.
As urbanisation continues to surge, it’s not just the bustling metropolises witnessing a population influx, but also the quieter corridors of medium and small cities. As these towns grapple with the surge, a series of adjustments in infrastructure, from transport to waste management, is underway to align with the expanding population and burgeoning economy. To elevate the national discourse on air pollution policy, we must transcend anecdotal narratives, delve into meticulous quantification, and spatial mapping of pollution, and assess the localised impact of sources.