No data on direct correlation between health and air pollution: Govt

Health effects of air pollution are due to a number of factors like food and occupational habits, socio-economic status and medical history of the individuals, the government said

Severe Air pollution Delhi
According to the Central Pollution Control Board data, 24 of the 37 monitoring stations in Delhi recorded the AQI in the severe category around 11 am

There is no conclusive data available in the country to establish a direct correlation between health and air pollution, according to the Union government.

The government said this in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session. While admitting that “air pollution is one of the factors for respiratory ailments and associated diseases,” it said, “however, there is no conclusive data available in the country to establish direct correlation between health and air pollution.”

“Health effects of air pollution are synergistic manifestation of factors, which include food habits, occupational habits, socio-economic status, medical history, immunity, heredity, etc., of the individuals,” the written answer to Lok Sabha query added.

Lacunae in ranking of polluted cities

The minister of state in the ministry of environment, forests and climate change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, also raised questions over surveys published by some organisations ranking cities in the world, including India, on the parameter of air pollution. “There is no established mechanism for ranking the cities in terms of pollution,” he said, pointing out that “it also requires authentic data and proper peer review.”

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“The government is aware that several private institutions and universities are ranking cities adopting different methodologies, different data set and using different weightages to parameters. The data used for ranking is extracted primarily from satellite imageries which are not validated by proper ground truthing,” the minister said.

Elaborating about efforts taken by the government to tackle air pollution, the minister said, “City-specific clean air action plans have been prepared and rolled out under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) for implementation in 132 non-attainment cities and other cities.”

“The city action plans focus on city-specific short/ medium/ long term actions to control air pollution from sources such as vehicular emission, road dust, burning of biomass/ crop/ garbage/ municipal solid waste, landfills, construction activities, industrial emission, etc.,” he informed the House.

Govt steps to tackle industrial pollution

The government, he said, is taking several steps towards prevention and control of pollution caused from various types of industries across the country. The ministry notifies Industry-specific discharge standards and state pollution control boards (SPCBs) and pollution control committees (PCCs) in states and Union territories ensure the compliance of these standards. “So far, industry-specific environmental standards for about 80 industrial sectors have been notified,” he said.

“The SPCBs and PCCs monitor the compliance of industrial emissions and effluent discharges and other operational activities according to the prescribed standards,” the minister added.

Also, the central pollution control board (CPCB) carries out inspection and monitoring of 17 categories of highly polluting industries on random basis, selected on the basis of the real time data received through OCEMS installed in industries. “In the case of non-compliance, action against industry is taken under provisions of Water Act, 1974, Air Act, 1981 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” he said.

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The CPCB had revised the criteria for categorization of industries and directed all SPCBs and PCCs in March 2016 to adopt it. The categorization is based on pollution potential of the industrial sector and is aimed at ensuring that the industry is established in a manner consistent with environmental objectives and to prompt industrial sectors to adopt cleaner technologies, the minister said. “CPCB has categorized 254 industrial sectors into red (61), orange (90), green (65) and white (38) categories,” he added.