Is air pollution shortening the lives of citizens of Dhenkanal?

Dhenkanal, 19 Oct (GroundzeroLive):

According to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), residents of Dhenkanal, could live about 2.9years longer if World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines weremet. Way back in 1998, the gain in life expectancy by meeting the same air quality standards was 1.2 years. This, along with other insightful details, was shared in a workshop organized by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC-India) in Dhenkanal on 18thOctober.Dhenkanal has Angul and Talcher in its close vicinity, both of which are listed as non-attainment cities with respect to ambient air quality under the National Clean Air Programme.

Sharing his insights on the impact of air pollution on human health, Dr.Jagadananda Tripathy, MD, State Executive Body Member Odisha Medical Services Authority(OMSA), said“Air pollution and human life expectancy are inversely proportional. Industrial emission, vehicular pollution and particulate matter emission due to mining activities in Angul and Talcher industrial belt are having their toll on the life expectancy of residents in Dhenkanal. There is a massive increase in cardiovascular diseases in the district in last decade. Exposure to polluted air has both short and long term negative impacts on human health.”

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.”

The AQLI, whichindicates that on an average, residents in Odisha could live 2.8 years longer if the WHO air quality guidelines 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 guidelines or national air quality standards. 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, Mr Nirada Nanda,secretary of city based civil society organization NAMI said, “Awareness is key to the war against air pollution. Increased pollution literacy will exert pressure on both policy makers and industries to enhance air quality”Sandeep Sahu, Senior Journalist added, “Tools like AQLI can help citizens and policymakers to bring air pollution into the popular discourse. Its high time that we realize that it’s the same air that we all breathe in and hence the health impact it has is same for all of us.”

Talking about the steps taken by local administration, Mr. Bhabesh Kumar Nayak, ADM, Dhenkanal told, ‘’We are aware of the grim situation and district administration is taking all necessary steps to keep air pollution under control. We are planning for some awareness camps regarding this at different schools and colleges. Along with, the district administration is on its toe to curb vehicular pollution and pollution caused due to construction and demolition.’’

The workshop, meant to raise awareness about the impact of pollution on human health,was attended by more than 80 students. Inaugurating the workshop, Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee, Resident Director, Indian Institute of Mass Communicationtold, ‘’ Air pollution is a pressing problem of the day. This workshop will make the media students aware of the problem and its possible solutions.’’Parambrahma Tripathy, Communication and Outreach coordinator, EPIC-India proposed the vote of thanks.

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