New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to do away with an annual-approval clause in an attempt to improve business conditions. To operate, the country's most-polluting industries will now need approval only every five years.
This decision comes at a time when the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared New Delhi the world's most polluted capital, thus reviving the debate over air pollution in the country.
Under the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s most-polluting plants can be approved on a five-year basis.
Under the previous Congress-led administration, the authorities looked every year at the impact of industrial clusters on air, water, land, health and ecology before giving their approval.
Reacting to the new looser regulations, Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, said these incremental changes would neither help industry nor ensure pollution abatement.
Every year, air pollution kills more than 627,000 in India, according to the World Health Organisation, 3,000 in the capital alone.
A survey released last year shows that out of 1,600 cities Delhi had the world's highest annual average concentration of small airborne particles known as PM2.5.
These extremely fine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter are linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease as they penetrate deep into the lungs and can pass into the bloodstream.
India disputed the WHO's assertion, but conceded that air pollution in the capital is comparable with that of Beijing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently defended his country’s record.
His government noted that the Air Quality Index would initially cover ten cities – Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Each would have monitoring stations with Air Quality Index display boards.
Eventually, the aim is to cover 66 cities. However, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar gave little indication of what the government would do to improve air quality.