At a time when several north Indian cities, including Delhi, are battling alarming levels of pollution, UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim has said that India has scripted success in eradicating polio and tackling other health emergencies and there is no reason why the country cannot do so for air pollution.
The UN Environment Chief termed air pollution as a “crisis” that requires government, policy-makers, scientists and civil society to come together to mitigate, and asserted “we need to count on the support of the public in this”.
Solheim has expressed confidence that the country can tackle air pollution, which he said is one of the world’s biggest killers and a global public health emergency.
Air pollution in Indian cities, especially in Delhi and NCR, have reached alarming levels and had gone off the charts after Diwali when the air quality dipped to severe levels. In a desperate measure, authorities swung into action to enforce emergency measures such as ban on construction activities and entry of heavy vehicles into the national capital.
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Speaking to news agency PTI, Solheim said “Living in a city should not mean accepting that you have to shave years off your life, lose cognitive capabilities or watch helplessly as children and the elderly gasp for breath. India has scripted such success with polio eradication and other health emergencies; there is absolutely no reason why the country cannot do it for air pollution.”
“The sad truth is that Indian cities are not alone in their suffering. Poor air quality is one of the world’s biggest killers and a global public health emergency. This was clear at the recent WHO conference on air pollution, where air pollution was declared on a par with tobacco in the nature of the risk it poses to human life”
The UN Environment Chief said there is no “magic single solution” to the problem, but rather a range of actions that can be taken by individuals, city authorities and governments.
He said that for the UN Environment, air pollution is a high priority area.
He noted that in other cities, where road transport or the burning of waste is a major cause, the UN body has worked on building the case for the introduction of tougher emissions standards and helped governments put in place incentives to drive the adoption of renewable energy sources and recycling facilities.
Observing that technology and communications are now better than ever, and this revolution can also be used as a driver of change, the UN Environment Chief said people need to think of themselves not as victims, but as drivers of change.