How UK cleaned its air, and what Delhi can learn

~How UK cleaned its air, and what Delhi can learn

~Professor Frank Kelly
NEW DELHI: A “moderate” day in Delhi is an “emergency” in London. And the UK is still looking to clean up its air even further. Professor Frank Kelly, chair in environmental health at King’s College London, who was in the city to attend the World Sustainable Development Summit 2019, told TOI that investment in cleaner technology and education about pollution can help Indian cities, especially Delhi, to cut down on emission levels.
“Investment in public transport should be the No.1 priority, especially in urban areas like Delhi. Biomass burning is another problem plaguing the city. There is a need to ensure availability of improved equipment in agriculture sector and spread awareness about the ills of stubble burning. Investment in clean industries is also required,” Kelly said

While WHO’s 2018 air pollution global ranking puts around 30 areas in the UK at 10 micrograms per cubic metre above the permissible limits or just at the limit, India’s 14 cities top the WHO ranking with PM2.5 levels being more than 3 or 4.5 times higher than the national standards, which are more relaxed in comparison to the WHO AQI standards. There is no comparison between the air pollution levels that each country is facing — the scale of the problem that India is dealing with is a national health emergency. If India reduces particulate pollution by 25%, under the National Clean Air Programme goal, residents of Delhi and UP could live almost three years longer, according to a recent report from the Air Quality Life Index, a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into its impact on life expectancy. “Each year, on average, we have 10 air pollution episodes (in London). On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is the worst, we have three episodes. Those episodes will be seen here as ‘moderate’. We no longer reach 100s of micrograms like Delhi. (The) problem is considerably less (in UK). But we know that it’s still impacting
children’s lung development. It is having an effect on the other end of life like neo-degenerative diseases. It also causes heart ailments and COPD,” he said. Both India and the UK recently introduced national clean air plans. NCAP looks at reducing PM2.5 and 10 levels by 20-30% by 2024, whereas the Clean Air Strategy aims to reduce PM2.5 levels across the UK so that the number of people living in locations above the WHO guideline level of 10 micro grams/m3 is
reduced by 50% by 2025.