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Trump Calls India’s Air ‘Filthy’ – A Hard Truth We Must Accept  

The hard truth is this: India has a very real air pollution problem. And we cannot shy away from it.

Published
India
3 min read
The hard truth is this: India has a very real air pollution problem. And we cannot shy away from it.
i

US President Donald Trump described India’s air as "filthy" during the final presidential debate with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, while discussing the environment and the Paris climate change agreement.

"Look at India, it's filthy, its air is filthy," he said late on Thursday, 22 October, in Nashville, Tennessee, while also attacking China and Russia.

While India remains committed to tackling climate change, and the US has withdrawn from Paris Climate Agreement, shrugging responsibility, the hard truth is this: India has a very real air pollution problem. And we cannot shy away from it.

Let’s look at the Air Quality Index (AQI) in some cities for Friday:

US Embassy, Delhi: 480 (Hazardous)

Knowledge Park, Greater Noida: 470 (Hazardous)

Powai, Mumbai: 148 (Unhealthy for sensitive groups)

Sanathnagar, Hyderabad: 171 (Unhealthy)

Mahinagar, Ahmedabad: 155 (Unhealthy)

Talkatora, Lucknow: 247 (Very Unhealthy)

GVM Corporation, Visakhapatnam: 165 (Unhealthy)

Muradpur, Patna: 162 (Unhealthy)

This is not to say that the whole of India is breathing foul air. There are certainly exceptions like Chennai, Kolkata, Shillong or Guwahati, where the AQI is well under 40, but the overall picture, as has been shown, is worrying.

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1,16,000 Infants Died Due to Air Pollution in India in 2019

According to a startling new report, 21 percent of all neonatal deaths in India are caused by air pollution. As many as 1,16,000 infants died in India in the first month alone, according to a global comprehensive analysis of the impact of air pollution on newborns.

The highest health risk in India is now caused by air pollution, with 1.67 million deaths in 2019 from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung disease and neonatal diseases attributed to bad air.

The State of Global Air 2020 study published in Health Effects Institute found that half of these infant deaths were caused by outdoor air pollution.

South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal were among the top 10 countries with highest PM 2.5 levels in 2019. Shift to non-solid fuels has helped, with 50 million less people exposed to household air pollution.

 Trump Calls India’s Air ‘Filthy’ – A Hard Truth We Must Accept  
(Graphic: Aroop Mishra/FIT)
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In important findings, all ages mortality due to air pollution worldwide stood at 6.7 million, of which 2.1 million deaths were in South Asia. Of these, 173,500 deaths occurred in Bangladesh, 1.67 million in India, 235,700 in Pakistan, 42,100 in Nepal.

Air pollution versus other risk factors:

  • Bangladesh – Second leading risk factor after high blood pressure
  • India – First leading risk factor followed by high blood pressure
  • Pakistan – Second leading risk factor after malnutrition
  • Nepal – First leading risk factor followed by smoking

At a time the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, this report is particularly alarming. While direct links between air pollution and COVID-19 are still being explored, knowing that air pollution is linked to increased heart disease, lung disorders, stroke etc, the concerns are serious. With winter months setting in, combined with rising air pollution levels, earnest efforts need to be made to tackle bad air.

These numbers, the poor and deteriorating AQI, and the increased breathing difficulties and respiratory ailments, all point towards one fact: Air pollution in India is a real threat, and it is taking millions of lives in the country. Tackling it on a personal as well as a professional level is the need of the hour.

(The article was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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