Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] It’s time to focus on the toxic air we breathe

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Op-ed discusses about the draft National Energy Policy and its shortcomings.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Critically examine the features of  Niti Aayog’s draft National Energy Policy?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Air pollutants, National ambient air quality Index

Mains level: Features of National Energy Policy



  1. Niti Aayog released the draft National Energy Policy.
  2. Several public policy research and civil society organisations criticised the policy from various standpoints.

Public health and growth

  1. It ignores is public health, especially in the context of the energy mix envisaged under the NITI Ambition Scenario
    • Ambition Scenario is a tool to arrive at a range of possible energy futures for the energy sector till 2040.
  1. National Health Policy of 2017 views reducing air pollution as vital to India’s health trajectory.
  2. However, the National Energy Policy neither reflects nor supports the commitment outlined by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Ministry

Air pollution menace

  1. WHO reports that air pollution is the number one environmental health risk. In 2012, about 3 million premature deaths were attributable to ambient air pollution.
  2. Children are most affected by air pollution and will be the primary beneficiaries of policies to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
  3. Research has also established links between public health and a nation’s economic growth.
  4. The estimated cost of ambient air pollution in terms of the value of lives lost and ill health in OECD countries, India and China is more than $3.5 trillion annually.
  5. Joint study by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the aggregate cost of premature deaths due to air pollution was more than $5 trillion worldwide in 2013 alone.
  6. In East and South Asia, welfare losses related to air pollution were about 7.5% of GDP.


WHO’s  Health Indicators of Sustainable Energy

  1. It lays out a few core and expanded indicators that can help monitor the progress of a nation’s energy policy.
  2. The core indicators address issues related to health equity where health impact assessments become an integral part of energy policy design and implementation.
  3. It stress on the need to develop baseline data by generating emission inventories and source apportionment of urban air pollution that can inform mitigation and intervention policies.

Way forward

  1. National Energy Policy have to strive to minimise the unavoidable health impacts of energy production, and their associated health costs, especially given the policy’s stated objectives of sustainability and economic growth.
  2. It should include a health impact assessment framework to weigh the health hazards and health costs associated with the entire life cycle of existing and future energy projects and technologies
  3. Ensure that policies directed at energy security are compatible with public health goals.
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