Air pollution reduces average life expectancy in India by five years2 min read . Updated: 29 Jul 2020, 08:15 AM IST
A 42% rise in particulate pollution in India in two decades poses a great threat post-covid, a study says
NEW DELHI : Pollution is the greatest risk to human life, more so in India than in any other country, and will remain so in the post-covid world.
A quarter of India’s population is exposed to pollution levels not seen in any other country, according to data released by air quality life index (AQLI), a tool developed by the Energy Policy Institute of The University of Chicago (EPIC).
An average Indian’s life is cut short by more than five years, relative to what it would be if the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline was met, the data showed.
AQLI, which looks at the impact of particulate air pollution on life expectancy, said particulate pollution in India has increased by 42% in the last two decades and was the greatest risk to human health before covid-19. It will remain the greatest risk after covid-19, it said.
At present, 84% of Indians live in areas where the pollution levels exceed the country’s own air quality standards, while the entire population is exposed to levels that exceed the WHO guidelines, the report said.
“Though the threat of coronavirus is grave and deserves every bit of the attention it is receiving, perhaps more in some places, embracing the seriousness of air pollution with a similar vigour would allow billions of people around the world to lead longer and healthier lives," said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in economics and creator of the AQLI. Greenstone called for a robust public policy to reduce air pollution.
The report highlighted the situation at the state level and pointed out that nearly 230 million residents of Uttar Pradesh are on track to lose more than eight years of life expectancy relative to the WHO guideline.
Similarly, Delhi residents could see more than nine years added to their lives if pollution was reduced to meet the WHO guideline, while people in Bihar and West Bengal can add more than seven years, and residents in Haryana can expect to live eight years longer.
In 2019, the Centre had declared a “war on pollution" with the launch of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30% relative to 2017 levels by 2024. Though the NCAP’s goals are non-binding, if India does achieve and sustain this reduction, it would lead to remarkable health improvements, said AQLI.
A 25% nationwide reduction in pollution levels, the midpoint of the NCAP’s target, would increase India’s national life expectancy by 1.6 years and by 3.1 years for Delhi residents.