Background: India is a signatory to the World Health Organization resolution on Vision 2020: The right to sight. Efforts of all stakeholders have resulted in increased number of cataract surgeries performed in India, but the impact of these efforts on the elimination of avoidable blindness is unknown.
Aims: Projection of performance of cataract surgery over the next 15 years to determine whether India is likely to eliminate cataract blindness by 2020.
Materials and methods: Data from three national level blindness surveys in India over three decades, and projected age-specific population till 2020 from US Census Bureau were used to develop a model to predict the magnitude of cataract blindness and impact of Vision 2020: the right to sight initiatives.
Results: Using age-specific data for those aged 50+ years it was observed that prevalence of blindness at different age cohorts (above 50 years) reduced over three decades with a peak in 1989. Projections show that among those aged 50+ years, the quantum of cataract surgery would double (3.38 million in 2001 to 7.63 million in 2020) and cataract surgical rate would increase from 24025/million 50+ in 2001 to 27817/million 50+ in 2020. Though the prevalence of cataract blindness would decrease, the absolute number of cataract blind would increase from 7.75 million in 2001 to 8.25 million in 2020 due to a substantial increase in the population above 50 years in India over this period.
Conclusions: Considering existing prevalence and projected incidence of cataract blindness over the period 2001-2020, visual outcomes after cataract surgery and sight restoration rate, elimination of cataract blindness may not be achieved by 2020 in India.