CSTEP Launches Centre for Air Pollution Studies (CAPS) to Inform Policy with Scientific Evidence

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In 2017, long-term exposure to ambient PM2.5 contributed to 2.9 million deaths. India and China, the world’s two most populous countries, accounted for 52% of the global PM2.5-attributable deaths (State of Global Air Report, 2019). Deteriorating urban air quality is a matter of serious concern in most Indian and South Asian cities, with reports (WHO) indicating that 14 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. Managing air quality levels across cities has emerged as a complex task, and governments are seeking credible scientific studies to create meaningful policy options to mitigate air pollution.

The Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), one of the largest think tanks in South Asia, understands that an effective action plan for air pollution requires the combination of science-based knowledge, techno-economic and policy assessment, along with outreach and advocacy. However, very few institutions in India provide such an integrated perspective on air pollution. It is in this respect that CSTEP launched the Centre for Air Pollution Studies (CAPS), on April 15, 2019, in New Delhi.

The centre was launched in the presence of Dr Ajay Mathur (Director General, TERI), Mr Ritesh Kumar Singh (Joint Secretary, MoEFCC), and Ms Rhea Cordeiro (Consultant — Climate Change, MacArthur Foundation).

CAPS’ vision is to provide scientific, high-quality policy advice for improving air quality in India and the South Asian region. This is in line with Government of India’s policies, such as the National Clean Air Action Programme, which encourages context-specific studies to identify pollution sources and the extent of their contribution.

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“Research on air pollution alone is not enough unless it is applied in policy and practice,” said Dr Pratima Singh, Domain Lead, CAPS. “This will be the key difference between other institutions working in this area and CAPS. Our efforts are towards finding scientific evidence and ensuring that policy is informed by this evidence.”

CAPs has adopted a three-pronged approach towards tackling air pollution:

1) Measurement and Monitoring

Objective: Understanding air quality measurement and monitoring system

2) Modelling and Analysis

Objective: Developing computational models and forecasting capabilities

3) Policy Analyses and Outreach

Objective: Developing capabilities for policy assessment studies, assessing health impact due to pollution and to establish a platform for data dissemination.

Dr Anshu Bharadwaj, Executive Director, CSTEP, said, “We believe that there is a growing need for data- and evidence-driven policy to help improve urban air quality. India needs several high-quality research institutions to meet this research demand. CSTEP’s interdisciplinary approach — involving science, modelling and simulation, and economic and policy assessment — allows us to approach the issue of air pollution holistically. With CAPS, we hope that we can significantly contribute to addressing urban air pollution. We gratefully acknowledge the support provided by our funders and collaborators.”

While sharing the importance of a centre like CAPS to fight against air pollution, Ailun Yang, Programme Lead, Bloomberg Philanthropies, said, “Air pollution is a major challenge around the world, and India is at the forefront of this fight. Mitigating its effects requires input and engagement from stakeholders across local, city, and national levels. The CAPS launch comes at a critical moment and will further advance India’s efforts to improve air quality for future generations.”

Mr Krishan Dhawan, CEO, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, remarked, “The widespread issue of air pollution across India necessitates the need to strengthen civil society organisations so as to better inform the development of policies and their implementation. Shakti is delighted to have facilitated the establishment of the Centre for Air Pollution Studies at CSTEP. We congratulate CSTEP for this endeavour and anticipate that the research and collaboration made through this Centre will significantly contribute towards cleaner air in India.”

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The launch event also featured a round-table discussion with Prof. SN Tripathi, IIT Kanpur; Ms Priya Shankar, Bloomberg Philanthropies; and Mr Krishan Dhawan. The session, moderated by Dr Jai Asundi, Research Coordinator, CSTEP, highlighted the challenges with data, the importance of evidence generation for policy, as well as India’s roadmap for curbing air pollution.

CAPS has been set up with funding from Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the MacArthur Foundation and is collaborating with institutions such as the University of Washington (Seattle), the University of Texas (Austin), IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) for its research activities.

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