India rejects study claiming killer pollution levels

The union government on Wednesday rejected a study on pollution published in the Geophysical Research Letters Journal of the American Geophysical Union.

"We reject the claims made in the so-called research article that each Indian loses six years of his / her life because of pollution. The ministry of earth sciences does not agree with the study and completely rejects it," minister of state of environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javadekar said in a statement in Delhi.

According to the study, air pollution has reduced the life expectancy of Indians by an average of 3.4 years with Delhi topping the list at 6.3 years.

Delhi is followed by West Bengal and Bihar at the reduced life expectancy at 6.1 years and 5.7 years, respectively, stated the study conducted by the city-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in collaboration with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Colorado

The study report, titled Premature mortality in India due to PM2.5 (fine particulate material) and O3 (Ozone) exposure reveals that PM2.5 has claimed 570,000 lives in 2011, while Ozone 3 has claimed 12,000 lives in the same year.

Along with Delhi and Bihar, other states where life expectancy is found reduced due to air pollution are: Jharkhand (5.2 years), Uttar Pradesh and Odisha (4.8 years), Haryana and Punjab (4.7 years), Chattisgarh (4.1years), Assam (4 years), Tripura (3.9 years), Meghalaya (3.8 years) and Maharashtra (3.3 years).

The minister said the study is based on regional atmospheric chemistry model and statistical algorithm to construct estimates. "This (study) is based on studies in Europe and America, which have been extrapolated on India. It has not been done on sampling and not based on long-term observations."

Javadekar said the government is however serious about tackling pollution.

"India recognises pollution as a major problem and we are tackling it very seriously. But there are other pollutants also that are harmful to health. Ozone is a pollutant that has an adverse impact on life and which is predominantly present in California. NOx is another pollutant present much more in Mexico, UAE and China, than in India.

"SOx is another pollutant that is serious. Every pollutant adversely affects health. So, on different pollutants, countries have different experiences and different status. But we recognise that in India, because of the neglect over the last 10 years, the pollution problem has become serious, particularly in cities," the minister said.