Nairobi, Kenya: As the United Nations Environment Assembly gets together for a political declaration with world leaders to "#BeatPollution" in Nairobi, India is one of the focus countries. India and China together experience the maximum number of deaths in the world due to pollution.
In a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), some 12.6 million people die in a year due to pollution, of which 6.5 million are due to air pollution. This means one in nine people die due to pollution and one in four due to air pollution specifically. India and China account for 40 per cent of pollution related deaths.
"There is a strong determination to combat pollution on behalf of the Indian government, starting from PM Modi. For many years India's stand on the debate was wrong. It was on the lines that, should we develop or take care of mother Earth? Now that has changed," Eric Solheim, Director of United Nations Environment Programme told NDTV.
"Now India's approach has changed to 'let us develop and let us also take care of mother Earth'. That's a start," Mr Solheim, Director of United Nations Environment Programme told NDTV.
Part of northern India, especially the national capital, had been under a blanket of toxic smog for weeks, which worsened with mass burning of crop residue (stubble-burning) in Punjab and Haryana.
"The government has to get farmers, stakeholders on board and decide on what has to be done. It took a while for the government to acknowledge this, but it has," he said.
"India is going to be the most populous country, fastest-growing economy in the world soon and has a huge role in dealing with the problem of pollution," Mr Solheim said.
More than 4,000 delegates have gathered in Kenya in the run up to a political declaration to fight pollution by the UNEP.
"Facts need to be brought into focus. And it has to become about consumption and sustainable consumption. India's contribution to CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions is just 6 per cent, in comparison to China's 28 per cent... Not fair to label with countries where per capita consumption is higher. And the number of deaths is high simply because we are the second highest-populated country," BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi said.
The first Indian astronaut to travel to space, Rakesh Sharma, disagreed. "Problem with our country is we have too much politics, less democracy. It's one thing to aspire a better life, it's another to reach there responsibly and I do believe that we have not found that balance yet."