About the Event: Our 14th OneSouthAsia Conversation focused on collaborative action needed across countries in South Asia, particularly of the Indo Gangetic Plain, to tackle air pollution. The conversation brought together a panel of representatives from governments of the Indo-Gangetic Plain and discuss policy actions and pathways to tackle air pollution. The event was held in partnership with the Centre of Excellence for Research in Climate Change and Air Pollution, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.
Background and Context: South Asia is home to 9 of the world’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution. Bad air quality causes an estimated 2 million premature deaths across the region each year and incurs significant economic costs- almost 7.4% of the region’s gross domestic product. The concentrations of fine particulate matter such as soot and small dust (PM 2.5) in some of the region’s most densely populated and poor areas are up to 20 times higher than what WHO considers healthy (5 µg/mᶾ). Exposure to such extreme air pollution has impacts ranging from stunting and reduced cognitive development in children, to respiratory infections and chronic and debilitating diseases. This drives up healthcare costs, lowers a country’s productive capacity, and leads to lost days worked.
Air pollution, however, is not limited to a city, state, or national boundaries- it is transboundary in nature. Our latest report Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia highlights that more than 50% of the air pollution in major cities is not local, but travels from outside. It also emphasizes that regional cooperation can help implement cost-effective joint strategies that leverage the interdependent nature of air quality. The most cost-effective strategy, where all countries work in tandem, would cut the average exposure of PM 2.5 to 30 µg/m³ and save over 750,000 lives annually.