World Health Organisation in its recent report on air pollution has appreciated the Indian government’s efforts to curb air pollution through one of its flagship schemes of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to safeguard the health of women and children by providing them with clean cooking fuel.
The report read, “While the latest data show ambient air pollution levels are still dangerously high in most parts of the world, they also show some positive progress. Countries are taking measures to tackle and reduce air pollution from particulate matter. For example, in just two years, India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Scheme has provided some 37 million women living below the poverty line with free LPG connections to support them to switch to clean household energy use.”
Launched by Modi, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in 2016, the initiative aims to safeguard the health of women & children. BPL (below poverty line) families are given LPG connections with a support of Rs. 1,600 per connection in the following three years.
The report nevertheless estimated that 9 out of 10 people around the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. WHO estimates that around 3 billion people cook using polluting open fires or simple stoves fueled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal and around 7 million people die every year from exposure to polluted fine particles which is referred as PM 2.5 which causes noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.
The reports also show that low and middle-income countries especially of Asia and Africa are vulnerable to deaths related to air pollution and accounts for 90% of these deaths, followed by followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas. The highest ambient air pollution levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels often exceeding more than 5 times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific.