Air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk that humans presently face worldwide. Air pollution causes approximately 7 million premature deaths every year worldwide. The 15th Sustainability Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry deliberated on the ways to address the important issue of Air pollution. Three specific areas were the focus of discussions Air Pollution and Data Science, Redesigning Cities and Urban Mobility for Blue Skies and Sustainable Agriculture for Clean Air.
Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor, Government of India, expressed that “addressing data fluctuations requires recalibration, portability and empowerment of low-cost sensors and distributors across the country.” He further emphasised that the standardisation of monitoring air pollution data is of crucial importance. He also said that Industry must take into account the environmental costs of products.
Speaking at the session on Redesigning Cities and Urban Mobility for Blue Skies, Shri Durga Shankar Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India stressed that sustainable transport solutions are the need of the hour. He stated that “we need to build cost effective and efficient public transport models for example, mass rapid transport, BRTS and metros for our cities and promote non-motorized transport in our cities by building right infrastructure”. Citing cycling as a very good option going forward, he said that cities need to incorporate infrastructure for cycling and pedestrian pathways. Through smart cities we have come up with models which can be replicated. Smart cities can incorporate bicycle sharing models and promote pedestrian pathways”.
Reflecting on the importance of substantive business action towards meeting targets under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), Mr. Nitin Prasad, Chairman, CII ‘Cleaner Air-Better Life’ & Chairman, Shell India highlighted CII initiated a dedicated group of business leaders at national level, the ‘India CEO Forum for Clean Air’ in 2019 for creating an industry-wide cross-sectoral charter for clean air. The CEO forum members are working with players beyond the private sector to accelerate clean air action on ground.
The Summit also marked the launch of CII ‘Cleaner Air Better Life’ Report on Impact and Learnings of Crop Residue Management Programme at the session on ‘Sustainable Agriculture for Cleaner Air.’ This is a unique study on positive outcomes of the implementation model created by CII with farming communities of North West India to scale cost-effective and actionable solutions.
Mr Ashwath Ram, MD, Cummins, speaking in the context of a post Covid world, said “as we continue to power a more prosperous world, it is imperative that we remain mindful of the negative impacts of growth on air, land and water that we all depend on. Combating climate change is a growing concern today and to make the world a more sustainable place to live in, each one of us need to play our part to protect the earth. Environment Sustainability should be a way of life for all organizations, through their products as well as through corporate responsibility efforts”.
Ms Reecha Upadhyay from the Clean Air Fund highlighted a recent study conducted by the Clean Air Fund on the economic impact of air pollution in the UK. The study found that by cleaning up the country’s air to WHO standards, the UK could add $2.2 billion to its economy. She said that in India, the impact of air pollution on worker’s health and productivity is costing Indian businesses money. The Clean Air Fund is embarking upon a similar economic study for India in November.
“Partnerships between businesses, government, and citizens are essential to improving our air quality,” said Priya Shankar, India Director, Climate and Environment Program, Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The Sustainability Summit is the annual flagship event of Confederation of Indian Industry in sustainability, launched in 2006 to raise the bar of dialogue, practice and performance of sustainable business. The ‘15th Sustainability Summit – Action Agenda for the Next Decade’ is designed to focus on shaping up of the coming decade, incorporating learning from Covid-19 and reflecting how the drivers of innovation, technology and systems thinking can help us build a more sustainable next decade.