New government study to assess pollution-driven mortality

New Delhi: Union Environment Ministry will soon initiate its first-ever study to assess mortality and acute events due to air pollution starting from 20 major cities this year, officials said.

The government had earlier rejected acknowledging the international research from institutions like Lancet and World Health Organisation (WHO). The alarming reports in the past two years had projected figures attributing to a number of premature deaths caused by air-pollution.

According to the environment health advisor to the Union Environment Ministry, India aims a long-term study to quantify the health risks and impacts leading to premature deaths and factors responsible.

The research aims to get a country-wide clear picture in the next three years, but to begin with, it aims 20 major cities which include Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Chandigarh.

“The plan may take three years, but we need to get going and we will get some results in a year. The plan may take a final shape by this month-end in the next meeting at the Ministry,” said Dr T.K Joshi, Environment Health advisor, Union Environment Ministry.

The study will especially focus on the mortalities of below five-year-old children.

The ministry is also in process of identifying 20 hospitals, each in selected cities, which will keep a tab on such cases. It will research and report to the nodal agency.

In the national capital, AIIMS has been identified to track the acute cases due to air-pollution.

The Ministry has also decided to appoint one Principal Investigator, a senior doctor of the designated health institute or hospital in each of the 20 cities.

“We need to know how severe is the problem of acute effects and cases like strokes due to air-pollution. This study aims at quantifying the risks and to understand the quantum of health impacts and the exact cause,” he said.

Earlier in 2016, a Global Burden of Disease stated that 9,20,000 premature deaths occurred in India due to household air pollution and 5,90,000 premature deaths due to ambient air pollution. Lancet medical journal had stated that India and China contributing to 5.4 million of the pollution-related mortalities. The study said air pollution led to over 2,750 cases of deaths or severe illnesses per lakh people in 2016.