India Green Minister Suggests He Doesn't Believe Pollution Data

  • Says reports linking pollution to death based on extrapolation
  • Says central government has limited ability to curb toxic air

India’s environment minister said pollution is a problem for local authorities and suggested he doesn’t believe some data showing that the nation has some of the most dirty air in the world.

"We tend to believe reports published by foreign institutions more and don’t rely on reports by local institutions," the minister, Anil Madhav Dave, said at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. “The onus of controlling air pollution in India is on local bodies, and the center can only guide them.”

The remarks were an attempt to diminish the impact of international studies showing a health threat to India’s population from smog that blankets most of the nation’s big cities. India accounted for 14 of the 30 worst-polluted cities in the world, according to World Health Organization data released in May.

Dave disputed local media stories that cite studies linking deaths to air pollution in India. In a press release, the government said the "reports are often based on extrapolations without due scientific validation, and there is need for caution before arriving at any conclusion."

International organizations have also found India’s air toxic at times. Early November readings for toxic particles known as PM 2.5 in New Delhi soared to 850 micrograms per cubic meter in the neighborhood of Anand Vihar in east Delhi, 34 times the WHO’s guideline of 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Those levels rival the readings in Beijing, where pollution has triggered protests and vows for action from government officials. 

Dave sidestepped a question about whether the international studies for India were valid, saying the findings “neither say they’re incorrect nor correct.” India’s federal government can only play a limited role in curbing air pollution, he said.

India’s health ministry is yet to compile its own study on air pollution. The environment ministry has prepared a 42-point plan to hand-hold local bodies to address the issue.