New Delhi: Residential biomass burning was responsible for at least 267,700 deaths in 2015, or nearly 25% of the deaths attributable to Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, making it the most important single anthropogenic source of mortality due to air pollution, according to a study released on Thursday.
Coal combustion, dusts, transport, diesel, and brick kilns were the other major contributors to air pollution. Of the total 1.1 million air pollution related deaths in 2015, the burden falls disproportionately (75%) on rural areas.
Of the total 1.1 million deaths, the highest number was due to residential biomass fuel burning, followed by coal combustion from both thermal electric power plants and industry, which resulted in 169,000 deaths. Apart from that, anthropogenic dusts contributed to 100,000 deaths, open burning of agricultural residue contributed to 66,000, and transport, diesel, and kilns contributed to over 65,000 deaths in India in 2015.
The study, Burden of Disease Attributable to Major Air Pollution Sources in India, said it provides the first comprehensive assessment conducted in India to understand exposures at the national and state levels from Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5. It was conducted by IIT Bombay, the Health Effects Institute (HEI), a US-based global research institute, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), another US-based research institute working in the area of global health statistics and impact evaluation
“This systematic analysis of emissions from all sources and their impact on ambient air pollution exposure found significant contributions from regional sources (like residential biomass, agricultural residue burning and industrial coal), underlying that from local sources (like transportation and brick kilns)," said Dr Chandra Venkataraman of IIT Bombay, who led the air pollution source analysis.
The study, however, noted that India has begun to implement clean fuels and pollution control programs for households, power plants, vehicles, and other sources, but emphasised that as the country’s population grows and ages, health impact from air pollution will increase.
In the decades ahead, the study noted, a much larger portion of the Indian population may be susceptible to heart and lung diseases tied most closely to air pollution exposure.
According to the study’s analysis of a projected 2050 scenario with no further air pollution control actions, the health burden would increase to 1.7 million deaths in 2030 and more than 3.6 million deaths in 2050.
However, the study concluded that with increasing levels of emissions reduction, more than over 1.2 million annual deaths (in 2050) could be avoided.
In November 2017, the India-wide Global Burden of Disease analysis had identified air pollution, both outdoors and in households, as the second most serious risk factor for public health in India.
In the past few years, especially during the winter months, high levels of air pollution in Delhi and adjoining National Capital Region (NCR) have received enormous attention. However, experts have repeatedly pointed out that air pollution is not just a Delhi-NCR phenomenon but a nationwide challenge that requires focused effort.