Air Pollution could cut life expectancy in North India by 9 years, in two states by additional 2.5 years: Study

The report states that India is the most polluted country in the world with more than 480 million people or about 40% of its population living in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north where the pollution levels have regularly exceeded.

Created On: Sep 1, 2021 14:43 IST
Air Pollution in North India
Air Pollution in North India

The air pollution levels in India have expanded geographically over time and have increased so much in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra that an average person is now losing an additional 2.5 and 2.9 years of life expectancy.

Air Quality Life Index report by the University of Chicago has stated that India is the most polluted country in the world with more than 480 million people or about 40% of its population living in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north where the pollution levels have regularly exceeded than those found anywhere else in the world by an order of magnitude.

The study by the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago University ascertains that how much longer a person can live if they breathe clean air.

People in Northern India to lose more than 9 years:

The report says that the people living in Northern India are on track to lose more than 9 years of life expectancy if the air pollution levels of 2019 persist as the region experiences the most extreme levels of air pollution across the world.

India’s average particulate matter concentration, in 2019, was 70.3 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m3). It is the highest in the world and seven times the WHO’s guideline of 10 µg/m3.

High levels of air pollution in India expanded geographically

The report further states that India’s high levels of pollution have alarmingly expanded over time geographically. In comparison to a couple of decades ago, particulate pollution is no longer a feature of the Indo-Gangetic plains alone.

Pollution has now increased so in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. For example, an average person in those states is losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, relative to early 2000.

Pollution in South Asian region:

Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan account for nearly a quarter of the global population. They are consistently ranked among the top 5 most polluted countries.

The report says that due to South Asia’s high population and pollution concentrations, the region accounts for 58% of total life years lost because of the particulate pollution exceeding the WHO guidelines.

For India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal, the Air Quality Life Index data reveal that an average person will live 5.6 years longer if the pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guidelines.

The increase in the number of vehicles on road in Pakistan and India has increased about 4 fold since the early 2000s, adding to the pollution problem.

In India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal combined, the electricity generation in fossil fuels has tripled from 1998 to 2017.

Brick kilns, crop burning, and other industrial activities have also contributed to the rising particulate pollution in the region.

Clean Air Policy

The report explains that the benefits of the clean air policy are even greater in the Indo-Gangetic plains, where 480 million people regularly breathe pollution levels that exceed those found in North America and Europe by an order of magnitude.

The AQLI report mentioned that particulate pollution is the world’s greatest threat to human health and South Asia has been consistently the most polluted region which demonstrates the need for a clean air policy.

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