NEW DELHI: According to an analysis of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, air pollution has reduced the average life expectancy of Indians and found that across India, life expectancy would increase by 5.2 years if pollution is reduced in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines. The WHO guideline stipulates that the concentration of PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter) particles should not exceed 10 micron per cubic metre and that concentration of PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter) particles should not exceed 20 micron per cubic metre. In India, average PM2.5 concentration in 2018 was 63 micron per cubic metre.
The particulate pollution has risen dramatically over the years. Since 1998, annual particulate pollution has risen by 42 per cent, shortening 1.8 years off the lifespan of an average person over those years, the report based on the analysis noted. The report added that a quarter of India’s population is exposed to pollution levels that are not observed in any other countries, with 248 million north Indian citizens on the path of losing their life expectancy by more than eight years if the pollution levels persist.
The report said that if pollution continues, the life expectancy of people living in Lucknow is likely to reduce by 10.3 years, adding that the pollution level in the city is the highest in the country and also 11 times greater than WHO guidelines. The findings of the report indicate that citizens of Delhi could add 9.4 years to their life if air quality meets the WHO guideline and 6.5 years if pollution levels met India’s national standard. The findings also show that citizens of states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh can increase their life expectancy by more than 7 years and those of Haryana can expect to live 8 years longer if the WHO guideline was achieved.
While India’s total population of 1.4 billion lives in areas where the annual average level particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline, it was reported that 84% live in areas where it exceeds India’s own standard of air quality. The report also noted that four countries which account for about one quarter of the world ‘s population — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, are also among the most polluted and that Northern India is the most polluted part of South Asia.
Over the course of the last 20 years, industrialization, economic development, and population growth have led to skyrocketing energy demand in these countries, the report said, adding that since the early 2000s, the number of vehicles on road has increased approximately four times in India and Pakistan. Electricity generation from fossil fuel has tripled across Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan from 1998 to 2017 and crop burning, brick kiln, and other industrial activities have also led to rising particulate pollution in the region, the report noted.