iNDICA NEWS BUREAU-
Air pollution in India is becoming a bigger killer than vehicle accidents and even AIDS.
According to a new US study released on Wednesday, September 1, it showed that air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40% of Indians by more than nine years.
Coal burning is the principal culprit, the researchers said, and India is worst affected, with the average citizen dying six years early.
More than 480 million people living in the vast swathes of central, eastern and northern India, including New Delhi, endure significantly high pollution levels, said the report prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
“Alarmingly, India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time,” the EPIC report said.
“Air pollution is the greatest external threat to human health on the planet, and that is not widely recognized, or not recognized with the force and vigor that one might expect,” said Prof Michael Greenstone at the University of Chicago.
For example, air quality has significantly worsened in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, it said.
Lauding India’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP), launched in 2019 to rein in dangerous pollution levels, the EPIC report said “achieving and sustaining” the NCAP goals would raise the country’s overall life expectancy by 1.7 years and that of New Delhi 3.1 years.
The NCAP aims to reduce pollution in the 102 worst-affected cities by 20%-30% by 2024 by ensuring cuts in industrial emissions and vehicular exhaust, introducing stringent rules for transport fuels and biomass burning and reduce dust pollution. It will also entail better monitoring systems.
New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.
Last year, New Delhi’s 20 million residents, who breathed some of the cleanest air on record in the summer because of coronavirus lockdown curbs, battled toxic air in winter following a sharp increase in farm residue burning in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana.
The report estimated the number of additional years of life people would gain if air pollution levels in their country were reduced to World Health Organization guidelines.
In India, the figure is 5.9 years – in the north of the country 480 million people breathe pollution that is 10 times higher than anywhere else in the world, the scientists said.
According to the EPIC’s findings, neighboring Bangladesh could raise average life expectancy by 5.4 years if the country improves air quality to levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
To arrive at the life expectancy number, EPIC compared the health of people exposed to different levels of long-term air pollution and applied the results to various places in India and elsewhere.