Is Air Pollution Shortening Lives of Citizens of Patna?

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PATNA, 28th September, 19: Being one of the non-attainment cities with respect to ambient air quality under the National Clean Air Programme, Patna’s deteriorating air quality has been a cause of national concern. In order the highlight the serious concern of growing air pollution and its impact on human health in Patna, Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC India) in partnership with Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED) shared findings from Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) to educate stakeholders and demand for urgent steps to control air pollution in the cities

According to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), residents of Patna could live about 7.7 years longer if World Health Organization’s (WHO) PM2.5 guidelines are met. Way back in 1998, the gain in life expectancy by meeting the same air quality standards was four years. This along with other insightful details was shared in a workshop organized by CEED and EPIC India in Patna on 28th September.

While talking at the workshop, Ms. Ankita Jyoti, Senior program officer, CEED highlighted the fact that health must be central point or focus for any kind action on air pollution. The impact of air pollution on human health is devastating and more so the most vulnerable people are at receiving end. Government of Bihar must act on most urgent basis to implement the clean air action plan in letter and spirit, she concluded.

Echoing similar sentiments, Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and director of EPIC added, “Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health. But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colors, like red, brown, orange, and green. What those colors mean for people’s wellbeing has always been unclear. My colleagues and I developed the AQLI, where the ‘L’ stands for ‘life,’ to address these shortcomings. It takes particulate air pollution concentrations and converts them into perhaps the most important metric that exists—life expectancy.”

Sharing his insights on the impact of air pollution on human health, Dr. Neeraj Agarwal, AIIMS (Patna) said, “The health impacts of breathing toxic air are increasingly showing up in our hospitals and clinics. Increased patient flow of cases of respiratory illness certainly has links to the worsening air quality in our cities. Earlier, we got patients who were smokers or passive smokers but nowadays, we get patients who haven’t smoked in their entire life and are suffering from life-threatening diseases like lung cancer.”

The AQLI that indicates that on an average, residents in Bihar could live 6.9 years longer if the WHO air quality standards were met converts air pollution concentrations into their impact on life expectancy. For every district of the country, the tool illustrates how air pollution policies can increase life expectancy when they meet the WHO or the national air quality guidelines. It even allows citizens and policymakers to compare country or district-level data from 1998 to 2016, and make a comparative analysis.

Talking about how residents can play an active role in curbing air pollution, Santosh Singh, Editor-Indian Express said, “Quantifying the health impact into loss of life years will only make this conversation more objective but its only active citizen engagement that can take it to the next level. Otherwise, it shall remain a matter of academic and media discourse.”

Taking a cue from that, Dr. Prashant, Assistant Professor-Environmental Science, Central University added, “It is interesting that there are now publicly available tools like that of AQLI that citizens and policymakers can use to make pollution a subject of popular discourse. It’s high time that we realize that it’s the same air that we all breathe in and hence take a pragmatic approach to clean our skies.”

The workshop meant to raise awareness about the impact of pollution on human health was attended by more than fifty experts comprising of environmentalists, doctors and policymakers among others.

For more information;
1. Mr. Munna Jha-CEED, Ph no. 09570099300
2. Mr. Ashirbad Raha-EPIC, Ph no. 09891462650

3. Ms.Ankita Jyoti-CEED, Ph no. 07858864847