Delhiites lose nearly 12 years of their lives to air pollution, says report

Delhiites lose nearly 12 years of their lives to air pollution, says report
Source: Istock

In a recent study, Delhi has emerged as the world’s most polluted city, shedding light on a concerning reality where its residents could potentially lose nearly 12 years of their lives if pollution levels persist as they are. The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), published by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, unveiled these distressing findings. The report also revealed that every one of India’s 1.3 billion inhabitants resides in regions that surpass the annual average particulate pollution limit of 5 g/m3, as stipulated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study further disclosed that a substantial 67.4% of the nation’s population lives in areas exceeding India’s own national air quality standard of 40 g/m3. Specifically, the report indicated that the fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) in India leads to a reduction in the average life expectancy of an Indian by 5.3 years when compared to a scenario where the WHO’s 5 g/m3 pollution limit is met.

According to the AQLI report, Delhi stands out as the most polluted city globally, with its population of 18 million potentially facing an average loss of 11.9 years of life expectancy in relation to the WHO limit. Moreover, this loss reaches 8.5 years relative to the national air quality guideline, should current pollution levels endure. Even in the least polluted district within the region, Pathankot in Punjab, particulate pollution levels exceed the WHO limit by more than sevenfold, which could shorten life expectancy by 3.1 years if the present conditions persist.

The study noted that while geological and meteorological factors exacerbate particulate pollution in the northern plains, the data on PM2.5 after excluding dust and sea salt suggested a significant role of human activity in generating severe pollution. This is likely due to the region’s population density, which is nearly three times that of the rest of the country, resulting in heightened pollution from sources such as vehicles, residential areas, and agriculture.

Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the mind behind AQLI, highlighted a sobering fact: “Three-quarters of air pollution’s impact on global life expectancy occurs in just six countries — Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria, and Indonesia — where people lose one to more than six years of their lives because of the air they breathe.”

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