Vardhan’s comments attract barbs
NEWDELHI:“Is there any evidence that Indians have a special set of lungs (to survive air pollution)?” asked Kirk R Smith, professor of Global Environmental Health, responding to Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan’s statements that “to attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much”.
Smith is one of the authors of the The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which estimated India accounted for 2.5 million of the 9 million deaths caused by air pollution worldwide.
Responding to the Lancet study, Vardhan said, “To attribute any death to a cause like pollution, that may be too much. Ultimately these studies have to be India centric.”
In fact, people in India are more vulnerable to the adverse health affects of pollution than the global population because they are often more malnourished and have poor access to healthcare, said Smith.
“We all prefer local (India-centric) information, but are you going to deny the information that the world is relying upon. Are you going to reproduce these studies to generate values for every village and district of India? This is not possible,” he said.
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “Recently, a statement was attributed to the (environment) minister that a surgical strike is not possible on pollution. I don’t think anybody is asking for a surgical strike. But one is certainly asking for recognition that this a very serious public health issue.”