About Forty per cent of Indians are likely to loss more than nine years of their life expectancy if the country does not tap the high level of air pollution. In a new report, the Energy Policy Institute of University of Chicago said that India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time.
“India is the most polluted country in the world, with more than 480 million people—or about 40 percent of the country’s population—living in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Northern India where pollution levels regularly exceed those found anywhere else in the world by an order of magnitude. The residents of this region, which includes the megacities of Delhi and Kolkata, are on track to lose more than 9 years of life expectancy if 2019 concentrations persist,” the report pointed out.
The report stated that pollution increased so much in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh that an average person in these states tend to lose an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, relative to the early 2000s.
Just behind India is Bangladesh, where the people could live 5.4 years longer if pollution levels met the World Health Organisation guideline. The report mentioned that people in Dhaka, which is the most populated city in that country, could live 7.7 years longer. In Nepal, the average resident could live 5 years longer, with those in the highly-polluted outer Terai region standing to gain 6.7 years, if the WHO guideline were met. In Pakistan, the average resident could live 4.2 years longer, with those in Lahore, the second largest city, living 5 years longer.
The report pointed out that the impact of air pollution on life expectancy in the South Asian countries was substantially higher than that of other large health threats. It said that smoking reduced life expectancy in these countries by as much as 1.8 years; unsafe water and sanitation by as much as 1.2 years; and alcohol and drug use by about a year of lost life years.
In the report, the Energy Policy Institute of University of Chicago said that increase of air pollution in South Asian over time was not surprising. In the last two decades, the region saw much industrialisation, economic development and population growth, which all led to skyrocketing energy demand and fossil fuel use. In India and Pakistan, the number of vehicles on the road increased about four-fold since the early 2000s. In Bangladesh, the number of motor vehicles roughly tripled from 20103 to 2020. In Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan combined, electricity generation from fossil fuels tripled from 1998. Crop burning, brick kilns, and other industrial activities have also contributed to rising particulates in the region, the report added,