A green Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) today termed the latest WHO data which says India is among the world’s worst countries for its polluted air as “shocker” and demanded a response from the government “to the public health crisis”.

Director General of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) Sunita Narain said the latest urban air quality database released by the World Health Organization reconfirms that most Indian cities are becoming death traps because of very high air pollution levels.

According to the data, India appears among the group of countries with highest particulate matter (PM) levels. Also, its cities have the highest levels of PM10 and PM2.5 (particles with diameter of 10 microns and 2.5 microns) when compared to other cities.

“Of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India, says the database. Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world today. Is our national government and our cities prepared to take urgent action to protect public health?” she asked.

A response sought from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the WHO data went unanswered. CPCB is the statutory organisation entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

According to the WHO data, out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India.

“This shocker has come when the Auto Fuel Policy committee is all set to announce its recommendations for the emissions standards road-map for vehicles and fuels,” Mr Narain said.

She urged the government to give an “effectively stringent roadmap” to cut toxic risk from the burgeoning vehicle numbers.

The CSE said the committee must respond effectively to the mounting evidences on worsening air quality and health damage associated with vehicular fumes.

“It will be criminal if the committee buckles under pressure from the automobile industry and dismisses health evidences of air pollution as ‘insufficient and inconclusive’ and downplays the role of vehicles,” it said.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has set up a committee on auto-fuel policy to suggest roadmap until 2025.

The WHO data released yesterday had said Delhi is world’s most polluted city when it comes to air quality.

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