Ground Report | New Delhi: Air pollution in India; Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air is responsible for premature deaths worldwide. In India too, lakhs of people become victims of untimely death due to air pollution. Now new research has found that the role of the rich is important in increasing air pollution, but due to air pollution, the poor die more than the rich.
According to research, the richest person consumes a lot of things to live his heavy lifestyle, which increases air pollution. Researchers in Europe and the US wanted to see how the risk of air pollution in the world’s second-most populous country was linked to wealth.
They examined the spending data of people of different income groups. A sophisticated computer model was used to estimate pollution. Which finds out what kind of spending habits could have caused air pollution. They prepared a map by estimating the air pollution they generated and then used it to make estimates of the health effects it would have.
Air pollution in India
“We found that high-spending individuals contributed the most to increasing air pollution levels, while poor people were found to suffer the most,” the study said. The study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, estimated that air pollution from external and internal sources caused 11.9 million deaths in 2010.
They also introduced a new pollution disparity index, which measures the proportion of premature deaths compared to the amount of ambient air pollution contributed by each income group. For the top 10 percent, the index estimated 6.3 premature deaths per unit of pollution. Whereas for the poorest 10 percent, the figure was 54.7 deaths which is almost nine times higher.
The study, which heads the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, said that making just one change can effectively reduce deaths from air pollution. To provide cheap, clean cooking stoves and fuel facilities especially for the poor.
Mortality risk from cookstoves and rising
The study reviewed the data in unique ways. It presents a breakdown of indirect contributions to environmental pollution by consumption category for different income levels in an annual, population-weighted manner; Accounts for the various vulnerabilities of income groups in mortality estimates and compares the effectiveness and distributional impacts of pollution-mitigation policies. It also defines a new Pollution Inequality Index (PII) which measures the mortality rate per unit of air pollution contributed by households at different income levels.
The data showed that overall, transportation and indirect emissions associated with household consumption contributed almost twice as much to ambient particulate matter concentrations as direct emissions from biomass cookstoves, and mortality from these indirect sources was disproportionately affected by low-income households. They are already facing mortality risk from cookstoves and rising.
It concluded that while industry-wide pollution controls can reduce the disparity in the effects of ambient air pollution, providing clean cooking fuel to low-income households can reduce the number of premature deaths from pollution in India. The most effective way to reduce
“The main policy solution is still to clean up the direct source,” he says. The data will likely hold for other countries with similar issues.
Cooking-related air pollution
“Some of these patterns are fairly universal,” Rao says. “For example, since your income is higher, you buy a cleaner stove. As you increase income, you buy more stuff; you consume more electricity, and you buy a car instead of taking public transportation.” The study tells us that it is our responsibility to clean up the pollution. We are harming other people by our consumption more than we are harming ourselves.
“Indirect contributions from more essential commodities such as food and clothing are relatively evenly distributed across decibels, while are highly correlated with income from electricity, transportation and waste,” the researchers said.
The study further found that food production and preparation, as well as waste, comprise 70 percent or more of the total PM2.5 contribution of Indian households across socioeconomic groups. The higher a family’s income, the more waste they dispose of. On the other hand, their cooking-related air pollution contribution has decreased with increasing income.
But the most surprising finding was that despite the congested public image of traffic in Indian cities, the share of transport in pollution is on average only 6 percent and 11 percent for the richest 10 percent of Indian households.
The researchers wrote, while rural food particles have higher footprints than urban ones, because of a higher share of grain in their diet, fertilizer use is higher. However, the contribution of emissions from waste is much higher for urban households.
The authors highlighted the importance of addressing indoor pollution sources, such as using clean fuels for cooking, with a focus on industry-wide pollution control to reduce PM2.5 pollution disparity in India.