Air pollution has very tangible consequences. From disease to death, air pollution – ambient and household – has affected 99% of the global population, as per World Health Organization (WHO). The agency’s Air Pollution Data Portal attaches a staggering number to the impact of air pollution. According to WHO, the world witnesses an average of 6.7 million deaths yearly from ambient and household air pollution.
Closer to home, in India, 1.67 million people died due to air pollution in 2019. According to a study by Lancet, these deaths alone contributed to 17.8% of the total fatalities in the country that year. In terms of economics, this accounted for a loss of $36.8 billion, making up 1.36% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.
Air pollution, therefore, remains an issue that demands immediate redressal, and following the Paytm CSR vision, the Paytm Foundation is continuing to tackle India’s air pollution crisis. As part of its mission, Paytm Foundation has set up the Air Quality Action Forum in association with the United Nations Environment Program.
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Air Quality Action Forum
The Air Quality Action Forum is an initiative in line with Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s commitment to tackle the climate concern upon becoming UN Environment’s Patron for Clean Air in 2017. Speaking of the worrying global trends of increasing air pollution, Vijay Shekhar Sharma said that the environment’s well-being is a prerequisite to economic well-being. Making air pollution management an essential part of the Paytm CSR mission, Vijay Shekhar Sharma has stressed that the private sector plays a crucial role in ensuring a “sustainable future” for all.
In tandem with this belief and continuing the United Nations’ active participation in Paytm CSR initiatives, a partnership agreement for the Forum was signed by Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma and UNEP’s Asia Pacific Regional Office Director, Dechen Tsering in December 2021.
Focus On Collaboration
A pioneering initiative, Air Quality Action Forum recognizes that solving the issue of air pollution is a collaborative exercise. It requires active participation from various stakeholders, facilitated by consultations with all involved parties and subject matter experts. Through the Air Quality Action Forum, an ecosystem involving global and national development organisations, charitable institutes, academic institutions, and private sector entities works with the United Nations and its allied organisations. This ecosystem aims to collaborate with the Government of India to curb air pollution and improve air quality.
The Forum focuses on providing stakeholders and the general public with the tools to combat air pollution and its adverse effects. The consultations and meetings with stakeholders aim to arrive at possible solutions. The solutions are not only limited to short-term measures but also ways to implement systemic changes that keep in mind long-term environmental requirements.
The Forum also deals with implementing frameworks that are local in their specifications but global in their efficacy. And this, in turn, can range from efforts to standardise air quality management parameters to innovative solutions relevant to the needs of the hour. The solutions that stem from the consultations are being compiled into a report in association with IIT-Delhi’s The Centre of Excellence for Research in Climate Change (CERCA).
International Day of Clean Air For Blue Skies
The Air Quality Action Forum recently also hosted an event in Delhi on the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies on September 7, 2022. In addition to discussing the way ahead for air quality management, Vijay Shekhar Sharma also addressed the roadblocks in the path to a cleaner future, such as lack of awareness and financial constraints, among other issues.
International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, first celebrated in 2019, is of particular significance as it was established to create awareness about air pollution and its adverse effects. It aligns with the United Nations’ aim to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses due to pollution by 2030.
The event also saw the Air Quality Action Forum collaborate with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST). As a result of this collaboration, a report titled “Jobs for Clean Air: National Programme for Capacity Development for Air Quality Management” was released at the event. It highlights the gaps and stresses the need for a national-level campaign for inclusive air quality management.
In line with Paytm Foundation’s commitment to the BreatheLife campaign by the United Nations Environment Programme, 80 participants at the event hosted by Air Quality Action Forum reaffirmed their continued commitment to the cause of cleaner air and collaborative pollution management actions.