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Indians lose 5 years’ life to air pollution, Delhi worst at 12 years

According to the report by the Centre for Science and Environment, air pollution shortened the lifespan of 43.4% of India's population,

By Ground Report
New Update
Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha face severe pollution in winter: CSE Report

Breathing clean air could add around 5.3 years to the average lifespan of Indians. This positive impact is even greater in Delhi-NCR, where it could increase by about 11.9 years, according to the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) by the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC).

India holds the unfortunate title of being the world's second-most polluted country. Over 1.3 billion people in India breathe air with levels of fine particle pollution (PM2.5) exceeding World Health Organization guidelines. Around 67.4% of the population resides in areas with pollution levels surpassing India's own air quality standards.

This pollution is significantly affecting life expectancy, taking away an average of 5.3 years from each Indian. Heart-related diseases lead to a reduction of 4.5 years in life expectancy, while child and maternal malnutrition account for a 1.8-year decrease.

Air pollution has become a grave concern for India. Between 1998 and 2021, fine particle pollution increased by 67.7%. This has led to an average decline of 2.3 years in life expectancy for Indians. Alarmingly, India contributed to 59.1% of the global rise in pollution levels between 2013 and 2021.

The most polluted regions are the northern plains, home to around 520 million people. Continued pollution at this level could lead to an average reduction of eight years in life expectancy.

Air pollution shortens lifespan of Indian population

A report released last year by the Centre for Science and Environment revealed that air pollution has significantly reduced the lifespan of 43.4% of India's population, causing a decrease of five years or more in 2020.

The report further reveals that the impact of air pollution is more severe in rural areas than in urban areas. In rural areas, people's lives are on average cut short by 5 years and 2 months, which is 9 months more than the average lifespan lost by urban Indians.

The report estimates that 48.2% of the rural population, or approximately 478 million people, have had their lives shortened by five years or more due to air pollution.

In urban areas, the impact of air pollution on lifespan is slightly lower. The report estimates that 29.2% of the urban population, or approximately 113 million people, have had their lives shortened by five years or more due to air pollution.

Nonetheless, this is still a significant number, and the report highlights the urgent need for action to reduce air pollution in both rural and urban areas.

Delhi's air pollution crisis

According to the CSE report, Delhi saw the maximum reduction in lifespan due to air pollution in the country.

The report highlights that Delhi has only urban districts and the average reduction in lifespan due to air pollution was 10 years. This indicates that air pollution is a major concern in the national capital and urgent measures need to be taken to address the issue.

In contrast, Uttar Pradesh saw the maximum reduction in lifespan in the rural population due to air pollution, with an average reduction of 8 years.

The state has a high concentration of industries and vehicular traffic, which contribute significantly to air pollution. The report underscores the need for stricter regulations and policies to curb pollution in these areas and improve public health.

Ladakh has minimum impact from air pollution

On the other hand, Ladakh saw the minimum reduction in lifespan due to air pollution, with an average reduction of only 4 months. This can be attributed to the region's remote location, sparse population, and low levels of industrial and vehicular activity.

Yet, the report emphasizes that even slight decreases in lifespan can greatly affect public health. Therefore, we must strive to reduce air pollution across all parts of the nation.

To combat this, if India manages to lower its pollution level to under five micrograms per cubic meter, significant improvements are possible. Delhi, for instance, could see an increase in life expectancy by 11.9 years. Other states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, West Bengal, Tripura, Punjab, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh could also benefit, raising the average life expectancy.

India hasn't been inactive in addressing pollution. The government launched the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) in 2019 to reduce fine particulate matter pollution by 20-30% by 2024 compared to 2017 levels. Although the government did not set national targets, 131 non-attainment cities aimed to cut pollution by 40% by 2025-26. This could increase the average life expectancy of people in those cities by 2.1 years and the entire country by 7.9 months.

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