Air pollution kills 33,000 Indians a year, says Lancet; Cong urges tougher laws

National Clean Air Programme launched in 2019 a total failure, says Congress MP and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh

Representative image (file photo)
Representative image (file photo)

NH Political Bureau

Air pollution causes 33,000 deaths in India annually, even in cities certified as 'clean', according to a report published by prestigious international journal Lancet.

National capital Delhi is the worst affected, with 12,000 deaths each year. However, even cities with lower pollution levels, such as Pune, Chennai, and Hyderabad, witness thousands of deaths.

Reacting to the report, Congress leader and former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh criticised the Modi government for its inability to protect the environment and human lives.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Ramesh said the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched in 2019 with great fanfare, has become a complete failure, and over 50 per cent of NCAP funds remained unused by the end of 2023.

Ramesh further highlighted that since 2017, the Modi government has repeatedly delayed the deadline for coal power plants to install pollution-controlling flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems.

Delhi is the worst hit, with 12,000 deaths each year
Delhi is the worst hit, with 12,000 deaths each year
Lancet Planetary Health

He claimed, "This has led to thousands of deaths, all for the profit of plant owners. Of the 131 cities under NCAP, most do not even have data to track their air pollution. Among the 46 cities that do have data, only 8 have met the NCAP's modest targets, while 22 cities have actually seen an increase in air pollution," he pointed out.

Demanding the immediate enforcement of air pollution norms for coal power plants and the restoration of the National Green Tribunal's autonomy, Ramesh called for the rollback of anti-environmental law amendments made in the last decade.

Additionally, Ramesh also emphasised that the NCAP must be given legal backing, an enforcement mechanism, and robust data monitoring capacity for every Indian city, beyond the current focus on "non-attainment" cities.

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