J-PAL South Asia and Community Jameel launch the Air and Water Labs to increase clean air and water access for millions in India

Gandhinagar, Gujarat

Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to partner with J-PAL South Asia to design, test and scale up effective policy solutions.

J-PAL South Asia and Community Jameel announced today the launch of the Air and Water Labs (AWL) in India, an innovative initiative to increase access to clean air and water for millions of Indians through solutions that have been rigorously tested for effectiveness.

Under this initiative, J-PAL South Asia will be working with governments — both at the national and state levels — to accelerate the adoption of scientific evidence and data for improving India’s air and water quality.

As a first step, J-PAL South Asia is partnering with the Government of India’s Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DWWS) and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) to design, test, implement and scale-up solutions that are effective in reducing air and water pollution.

The AWL is part of broader efforts by J-PAL and Community Jameel to improve clean air and water access globally by scaling up effective programmes. J-PAL Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and J-PAL Africa have launched similar AWLs in collaboration with Community Jameel.

In India, the AWL initiative will be known as Solutions and Advancements Through Research for Air and Water (SARWA).  

Speaking in Gandhinagar at a ceremony to mark the launch of SARWA, George Richards, director of Community Jameel, said: “Communities across the world continue to face challenges in accessing clean air and water, a threat to human safety that has only been exacerbated by the climate crisis, along with rising temperatures and other hazards. Through our collaboration with J-PAL South Asia, we are committed to innovative and science-based approaches that can help hundreds of millions of people enjoy healthier lives.”

Together, the AWLs aim to improve clean air and water access for millions of people by informing the decisions of city, state, and national governments that together serve nearly 260 million people.

Shobhini Mukerji, executive director, J-PAL South Asia, said: “Something as fundamental as clean air and water shouldn’t become a luxury. Unfortunately, two of the most basic necessities for human survival are under severe stress today. An existential problem such as this can be solved only if governments, researchers, civil society and philanthropic organisations work together to drive change at scale. SARWA will benefit from the vigour with which the governments across India are addressing air and water challenges.”

In India, SARWA will foster closer collaboration among governments, academics from India and around the world as well as civil society organisations to shape India’s policies on air and water. Together, they will design innovative solutions, test them for effectiveness with randomised evaluations, implement the solutions with proven effectiveness and scale-up the ones delivering maximum impact.

There is an urgent need for initiatives that take a multi-stakeholder approach.

The Air Quality Life Index 2022 finds that high levels of air pollution are shortening the average life expectancy by nearly 5 years. More than 600 million people in India are facing serious water shortages and 70 percent of the water is unfit for drinking, as per a NITI Aayog report in 2018. Polluted air is one of the main causes of global warming, and a warming planet is leading to water shortages all over the world, including in India.

Apart from the obvious health implications, a deteriorating environment is a serious blow to poverty reduction and economic development. And we risk squandering the progress we have made over the last decade on poverty alleviation because of steady environmental degradation.

Related announcements