Pollution levels in the Indo-Gangetic Plain region of the country rose by nearly 72% in last 18 years, reducing the life expectancy of people by seven years, says a new research.
The new analysis of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) was carried out by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) in the Indo-Gangetic plains, stretching from Punjab in the north to West Bengal in the east, home to over 40% of India’s population.
Researchers studied the air quality data from 1988 to 2016 and found that the pollution in the northern plains has been twice as high as the rest of the country.
This is also evident from the fact, that out of 101 cities, as many as 14 cities with ‘severe’ level of pollution recorded on Thursday are in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, apart from Delhi which is breathing toxic air, as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
“Sustained exposure to particulate pollution in 1998 would have shortened the lives of residents in the region by an average of 3.7 years, relative to if pollution concentrations met the WHO guideline. By 2016, the pollution reached such levels, that it shortened the lives of residents from 3.4 years to 7.1 years," claims the report.
According to the analysis, comparatively lower concentrations of pollution in the rest of the country are allowing residents to live longer than those in the Indo-Gangetic Plains- Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where air quality fails to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for fine particulate pollution.
While the geographical and meteorological factors are also to blame for the pollution woes in the region, experts highlight it is also because the region’s population density is more than three times that of the rest of the country, meaning more pollution from vehicular, residential, and agricultural sources.
“A denser population also means more human lives are impacted by each pollution source," it highlights.
However, the report also says that if India could manage to meet its goals under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), and sustain pollution reductions of by 20-30 % nationally over next five years, the average life expectancy of people could be raised by 1.3 years.
The AQLI is a pollution index which quantifies the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to air pollution and life expectancy. The Index then combines this research with hyper-localized, global particulate measurements to understand the true cost of particulate pollution in communities around the world.