The BJP Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change addressed the Parliament regarding the effects of air pollution and during his speech he remarked - "No Indian study has shown pollution shortens life. Let us not create fear psychosis among people."
Our ministers are known for their ignorance and lack of logical conclusions, but this particular comment surpassed the rest and found its way to the director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Maria Neira.
In response to the rather obscure remark she said - “The evidence is available and so are the interventions, the expertise is there and so is the plan of action. We urge the Indian government, which has enormous amounts of expertise and competencies, to do its best in tackling the sources of air pollution and reducing toxic pollutants that citizens are exposed to at the moment.”
WHO’S climate lead, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum also chimed in with - “We have brought together and analysed tens of thousands of studies showing effect of air pollution on health from every population of the world. We are yet to find a study which shows any population, including India, which is immune from the health impacts of air pollution.”
It's no surprise that the Ministers comments are in blatant contrast to the several studies on air pollution in India.
The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 titled "Impact of air pollution on deaths, disease burden and life expectancy across the states of India" says that in 2017, 12.5 per cent of total deaths in India were attributable to air pollution. The study said: 1·24 million (1·091·39) deaths in India in 2017, which were 12·5% of the total deaths, were attributable to air pollution, including 0·67 million (0·550·79) from ambient particulate matter pollution and 0·48 million (0·390·58) from household air pollution. Of these deaths attributable to air pollution, 51·4% were in people younger than 70 years, it said.
Another study by Lancet last year concluded that one in eight deaths were attributable to pollution in India in 2017. Yet another study by CSE revealed that one lakh children under 5 years of age die from respiratory problems arising due to air pollution in India every year.
Considering the large number of resources available to look into these studies, it comes off as extreme ignorance on the part of Javadekar. Especially taking into account the fact that he is the Environment, Forest and Climate change Minister and the intervention from WHO, it may also be slightly embarrassing.
One of the comments from WHO in response to Javadekar sums up the fiasco perfectly - "We wish it didn’t kill people but unfortunately it does."