Environmental degradation is now at crisis levels, a new Greenpeace report says
Students rally against rising air pollution in Kolkata on March 12, 2016. A new Greenpeace report says that some 1.2 million people die every year in India because of air pollution. (Photo: IANS)
Over 3000 people die of air pollution every day in India, said environmental group Greenpeace International in a new report, even as church environmental groups and others urge the government to act fast.
The report, Airpocalypse, released Jan. 12, said that India's air pollution kills 1.2 million people every year with the national capital New Delhi topping the list of the most blighted cities. None of the 168 cities assessed for the report complied with the air quality standards prescribed by the World Health Organization.
"If the country's development is important, fighting air pollution must be a priority," the report said. "There are increasing numbers of people who die prematurely every year with increasing pollution levels. Deaths due to air pollution are only a fraction less than the number of deaths caused by tobacco usage."
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The report added that the burning of coal and oil were major contributors to air contamination and that it was now a public health and economic crisis.
Jesuit Father Robert Athickal, founder of Tarumitra (friends of trees), a nationwide organization of some 200,000 students promoting ecological sensitivity, told ucanews.com that measures must be taken on governmental, community and individual levels.
"This is unprecedented and it has no easy solution," he said, adding that India is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide used to produce electricity. "The problem lies with us. But whatever we have, we can manage provided everybody uses it efficiently."
"India needs to take collective responsibility and make a common effort," said Anil Joshi, founder of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization. "If we don't improve, we will kill ourselves and leave nothing for the next generation."
Joshi suggested that the government start publishing periodic reports about their efforts to improve the quality of soil, water and air.
Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si'called for people across the world to try and save the environment prompting Catholic organizations to start programs to improve things.
Father Frederic D'Souza, executive director of Caritas India, the social arm of the Catholic Church in India, told ucanews.com that the problem "is very large" and the work by Christian organizations and other NGOs "is very limited."
"People are not speaking about it because the impact is not felt immediately. They don't see it as a life and death issue touching them so they are ignoring it," he said.
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