Chandigarh 04th March:- A study released by the University of Chicago has found that residents in Chandigarh maybe losing upto 5.9 years of their lives because of breathing polluted air. AQLI or Air Quality Life Index, developed by the Energy Policy Institute at University of Chicago (EPIC India) had recently released numbers on life expectancy being reduced in North India due to increasing air pollution. An awareness workshop in this regard was conducted by EPIC India at Panjab University in collaboration with the Department of Community Education and Disability studies at the University, in the city on Tuesday. The workshop was attended by T. C. Nautiyal, (IFS), CF, Department of Forests & Wildlife cum, Member Secretary, Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee, amongst other distinguished guests. The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), developed by EPIC, converts air pollution concentrations into their impact on life expectancy and tells us how much longer can we live if we breathe in clean air. From this, the public and policymakers alike can determine the benefits of air pollution policies in perhaps the most important measure that exists: longer lives.
Addressing participants on the occasion, T. C. Nautiyal, said that ensuring clean air and environment is a collective responsibility of the administration and citizens. The pollution control board in Chandigarh has always believed in policies which are people centric and encourage citizens to participate and work with us together as a team for our city. Initiatives like AQLI are a good step in that process and there is a lot that we can mutually benefit as a society from exchanging this information and taking the right steps to ensure a healthy environment for the citizens of this city.
Sharing his insights on the impact of air pollution on human health, respiratory medicine specialist and renowned pulmonologist from the city, Dr. Sanchit Wadhwa said that there is an obvious change in the air quality of Chandigarh. The rise of respiratory related illnesses has also seen an upward curve in the past few years. Rapid urbanization, traffic emissions, people’s lifestyle and of course emissions coming from districts surrounding the city do impact the citizens health negatively.
Speaking on initiatives taken by Yuvsatta in the city, Pramod Sharma, Founder of Yuvsatta, said that proactive citizens are the backbone of any good society. Air pollution is one of the biggest challenges we face, not just in Chandigarh, but world over. Yuvsatta has been working on a lot of initiatives with aware citizens and young people. Platforms like AQLI are a much needed help in that process. Today's workshop is just the beginning of a positive people movement towards ensuring clean air for Chandigarh and setting an example for the rest of India.
Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Director of EPIC added that 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.” Data available on AQLI reveals that citizens in Chandigarh can live upto 5.9 years more an average if particulate concentrations in the state were at the level of 10 µg/m3 (10 mili-micrograms per meter cube) which is deemed safe by the WHO. Apart from Chandigarh’s increase in life expectancy, if WHO guidelines were met in neighboring states of Punjab & Haryana which encircle the tiny city, citizens in those states could live upto 5.7 years & 7.5 years longer, respectively.
Talking about how civil society & the media can play an active role in helping highlight air pollution, senior journalist Dinesh Goyal said that for a tiny city that we have, he don’t find journalists in Chandigarh giving appropriate space for stories related to critical issues like air pollution. We all know that the city has grown a lot in the last few years and it’s only going to grow further. Environment issues are going to be at the forefront & I feel that the city media should act as active goalkeepers to ensure that issues like air pollution don’t slip past our memory & keep finding the space in our newspapers and channels that it rightly deserves. We have platforms like AQLI that are giving us critical information. We need to be more proactive collectively as media.