Faced with rising air pollution, the city of Ahmedabad is launching two innovative strategies the first city-wide air quality monitoring system, and a broad public information and education campaign—to better protect its 6 million residents from heat and pollution-related illnesses, a local partnership announced today.
Ahmedabad is establishing an Air Quality Index to provide real-time data on smog and toxic pollutants so local citizens can take precautions and minimize exposure to harm and illness. It's also establishing "Ahmedabad A.I.R." – an Ahmedabad Air Information and Response plan – intended to reduce health risks from polluted air and impacts from climate change.
"Tackling air pollution is a priority issue for Ahmedabad," said Ahmedabad Mayor Gautam Shah. "We are proud to be launching the A.I.R. plan as we take the health of our citizens very seriously."
The two-pronged effort to build resilience and improve public health is being unveiled for public consultation today at a conference in Ahmedabad by a partnership of city leaders, air quality experts, the Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which works in India on climate and clean energy issues. The two new initiatives will be set up in the coming weeks.
"Ahmedabad is taking a bold step to safeguard its citizens from dangerous air pollution, especially its most vulnerable - children, the elderly and outdoor workers," said former NRDC President Frances Beinecke, who participated in the announcement. "The combination of an Air Quality Index and the new Ahmedabad A.I.R. campaign will make the city a leader in India in protecting public health."
Across India, dangerous air pollution threatens the health of tens of millions of people, especially those living in cities. While awareness about the harmful impacts of air pollution is growing, major gaps remain in communicating the health risks and actions that can help minimize exposure.
That's why the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) is developing an air quality index (AQI) with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR). Air Quality Index systems already operate in key cities in India, including Pune, Delhi, and Mumbai, among others, as well as internationally in the United States and elsewhere.
City leaders are working with health and meteorology experts and NRDC on the AQI system, and plan to use it to inform the public about rising air pollution health risks in India, and how to take precautions.
The Ahmedabad A.I.R. initiative will develop ways to share AQI data and pollution forecasts; educate the media and public; develop materials for schools to inform students about AQI levels; engage private and public health professionals to build protection strategies against air pollution; and identify future mitigation and exposure reduction measures with key partners.
"The central goal of this cutting-edge effort is to save lives and help the people of Ahmedabad to create healthier communities, more secure from the dangers of air pollution, and prosperous economy," said Anjali Jaiswal, director of NRDC's India Initiative. "Through the AQI and the AIR Plan, countless lives can be saved from air pollution, while also opening collaborative pathways to pollution reduction."
Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, Director of the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, said: "Preparing our cities to adapt to rising air pollution is a critical aspect of addressing serious health issues and mortality. The Ahmedabad A.I.R. plan is tailored to help its most vulnerable residents. With air pollution levels becoming a major concern in many cities, we hope that other cities can also use this model as a foundation to formulate their own air information and response plans."
As India works to expand its energy supply, lift millions out of poverty and provide electricity to millions of Indians who currently do not have it, the country has experienced rising air pollution levels that put Indians' health at risk.
The New York Times recently reported that India's worsening air pollution is causing about 1.1 million people to die prematurely annually and now is surpassing China's as the most dangerous in the world, a new study of global air pollution shows.
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