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HCFI Round Table Environment Expert Zoom Meeting on “Report of World Bank Group-2022 on Striving for Clean Air - Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia – Part 2”

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Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    03 January 2023

December 25, 2022, Sunday 

12 noon – 1 pm

 

  • South Asians are exposed to extremely unhealthy levels of air pollution. More densely populated areas are more exposed to air pollution especially PM2.5.
  • PM2.5 exceeds the annual mean of 35 µg/mm3, which is several times higher than the latest WHO guidelines released last year.
  • In the densely populated Indo-Gangetic plain, it is 20 times the level of WHO guidelines. In the months of November-December, it is more than 80 times of the WHO guidelines.
  • This is a timely report and has laid down guidelines to protect health by reducing pollution to a certain level.
  • In many cities of Bihar, the PM2.5 levels have been more than 400 µg/mm3. Siwan is the most toxic with 75 µg/mm3 followed by Begu Sarai at 70.7, Buxar at 70.1, Purnia at 69.2. The lowest is in Aara at 31.1.
  • This public health crisis is not only imposing enormous economic costs, it also accounts for an estimated 2 million premature deaths.
  • The Report had identified six air sheds in South Asia. (1) West/Central IGP that includes Punjab (Pakistan), Punjab (India), Haryana, part of Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh 2) Central/Eastern IGP: Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bangladesh (3) Middle India: Odisha/Chhattisgarh (4) Middle India: Eastern Gujarat/Western Maharashtra (5) Northern/Central Indus River Plain: Pakistan, part of Afghanistan and (6) Southern Indus Plain and further west: South Pakistan, Western Afghanistan extending into Eastern Iran.
  • The focus on hotspots would reduce the mean exposure to PM2.5 to 26 µg/mm3. In Delhi, 13-14 hotspots have been identified.
  • Steps to reduce ambient and household air pollution could significantly reduce premature deaths.
  • Wherever there are monitoring stations, it is possible to visualize air pollution. More the monitoring stations, more the problem areas.
  • Rural areas are also polluted indicating the importance of primary emission sources and regional atmospheric chemistry.
  • Overall in India, 83% people are exposed to air pollution. In North India, 98% people are exposed, while in South India, 56% people are exposed to air pollution.
  • The sources of air pollution is anthropogenic, geogenic and geological. We can only control the anthropogenic sources.
  • Emission from any geographical area or designated urban area remain almost constant throughout the year and vary at the most by 1-2%.
  • The NCAP asks for 20-30% reduction in PM10 and PM2.5. This is a mathematical formula, which cannot be applied.
  • Monitoring data depends on where the monitoring station is located and the surrounding area, how it is maintained and how it is calibrated. All these issues are not taken into account in monitoring. For e.g., the city of Banaras has two CAQMS, but they are located away from the city. In Bihar, monitoring stations are in the critical areas. Hence the data cannot be representative.
  • Dust aerosol is a natural process. It consists of local suspended dust. Not all aerosol particles are problematic. It also neutralizes many anthropogenic sources and gaseous components.
  • We need to study the natural chemistry. Not only physical chemistry, but the metabolism i.e., how the particles behave inside the body.
  • The correct methodology has to be followed for monitoring. We need to rethink the way we are working. 
  • The relationship between air pollution and meteorology especially local meteorology is still not understood. Mixing height, ventilation coefficient identify the relationship between meteorology and air pollution.
  • We need to plan and start long-term studies based on which policy decisions can be taken. This report can be a trigger for this. The health implications of air pollution are also related to long-term studies. Health professionals should specify the type of monitoring data required to study the health impact of different air pollutants.
  • The public health aspect of air pollution needs to be addressed.
  • Integration of medical professionals, research institutes and environment experts is required.
  • Improper waste management increases air pollution.
  • Waste burning causes more air pollution than legacy waste. Unburnt hydrocarbon is carcinogenic. We have failed to educate people that complete burning and incomplete burning are two different issues.
  • Complete burning in closed chamber or with adequate oxygen is one thing. But incomplete burning in open is problematic and more dangerous.
  • Air pollution can be reduced in two sectors: waste sector and construction industry. If we are able to do this, then at least 60% problems in air quality can be reduced.
  • In construction industry, lot of material can be prefabricated instead of making them onsite. This will reduce air pollution to some extent.
  • Manual demolition is a big reason for air pollution.
  • Integration is missing. Development without ecosystem, land use pattern is short-sighted development.

 

Participants

 

Dr Anil Kumar

Dr Dipankar Saha

Dr SK Gupta

Dr Ravindra Kumar

Mr Pradeep Khandelwal 

Mr Neeraj Tyagi

Dr S Sharma

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