Air pollution lowering Jammu's Life Expectancy

Joint workshop organized by Jammu University & EPIC India puts focus on city's deteriorating air quality

JAMMU: A study released by the University of Chicago has found that residents in Jammu maybe losing upto 4 years of their lives because of breathing polluted air.

AQLI or Air Quality Life Index, developed by the Energy Policy Institute at University of Chicago (EPIC India) had recently released numbers on life expectancy being reduced in North India due to increasing air pollution.

An awareness workshop in this regard was conducted by EPIC India with the help of the Jammu University's Environment Science Department in the city on Monday.

The workshop was attended by the Hon. Vice Chancellor Prof. M. K. Dhar & other senior faculty members of the Jammu University.

The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), developed by EPIC, converts air pollution concentrations into their impact on life expectancy and tells us how much longer can we live if we breathe in clean air.

From this, the public and policymakers alike can determine the benefits of air pollution policies in perhaps the most important measure that exists: longer lives.

Addressing participants on the occasion, Prof. Manoj Dhar, Vice Chancellor, University of Jammu , said, "Citizens always wonder, how they can contribute to solve a problem.

It is important all of us take active initiatives to talk, discuss and look for solutions to maintaining clean air for our beautiful city. Platforms like AQLI are indicators of where we are & what more can we do.

Jammu University & its diverse background of students & faculty have always taken a lead to address critical social issues like air pollution and I am sure after today, this initiative will transform into a positive momentum for the larger good of our citizens."

Sharing his insights on the impact of air pollution on human health, award winning microbiologist & a senior consultant at the city's Government Medical College, Dr. Sandeep Dogra said, "Jammu's air quality has been a concern for a long time & its impact on human health has been unsettling.

Cases of respiratory illnesses and other related disorders have risen steadily in the past few years. This shows the sort of impact that bad air quality has been having on the citizens here."

Speaking on initiatives taken by the environment science department at Jammu University, Prof. Raj K.Rampal, Head of Department, said, "Our students do a lot of projects and work in this area. We collect PM 2.5 samples and train our students adequately to take on the challenge of air pollution as committed professionals of the future.

Innovation & youth participation is a key to deal with this challenge and our department is putting in a lot of effort to address the issue of air pollution in Jammu."

Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and Director of EPICadded, "Around the world today, people are breathing air that represents a serious risk to their health.

But the way this risk is communicated is very often opaque and confusing, translating air pollution concentrations into colors, like red, brown, orange, and green. What those colors mean for people's wellbeing has always been unclear.

My colleagues and I developed the AQLI, where the ‘L' stands for ‘life,' to address these shortcomings. It takes particulate air pollution concentrations and converts them into perhaps the most important metric that exists-life expectancy."

Data available on AQLI reveals that citizens in Jammu Kashmir can live upto 2.7 years morean average if particulate concentrations in the statewere at the level of 10 µg/m3(10 mili-micrograms per meter cube) which is deemed safe by the WHO. Apart from Jammu's increase in life expectancy by 4 years, if WHO guidelines were met, Rajouri, Badgam, Reasi, Udhampur, Samba and Kathua could gain 2.9 years, 3 years, 3 years, 3 years, 4.3 years & 4.4 years respectively.

Talking about how civil society can play an active role in curbing air pollution, senior journalist Pradeep Dutta said, "Jammu needs to take the lead in addressing the issue of air pollution effectively. Unfortunately in strife torn Jammu & Kashmir, journalists fail to come out of "two killed-three injured" syndrome.

Their focus is only stories directly or indirectly related to traditional or non-traditional security issues. There is hardly any space for issues related to health, environment, wild-life, ecology or such social issues.

Urbanization is happening at a rapid pace in Jammu and it will bring with it problems like air pollution. Citizens and the local media, need to actively get involved in the process of vocally communicating these concerns and working with the administration to look for solutions. Dr Vinay Thusoo, Official Spokesperson, University of Jammu delivered formal vote of thanks.

The workshop, meant to raise awareness about the impact of pollution on human health,was attended by more than 80 participants, consisting of environment science students from the Department of Environment Science, Jammu University, faculty members, representatives from local NGOs & city journalists.

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