Air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40% of Indians across North and South India by more than 9 years, according to a report released by a U.S. research group on Wednesday.
The worst in India is the capital region of Delhi, where residents could live about 10 years longer if pollution levels met the WHO guidelines and seven years if it met India’s own national standard, the report said.
New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.
Last year, New Delhi’s 20 million residents, who breathed some of the cleanest air on record in the summer because of coronavirus lockdown curbs, battled toxic air in winter following a sharp increase in farm residue burning in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana.
More than 480 million people living in the vast swathes of central, eastern and northern India, including the capital, New Delhi, endure significantly high pollution levels, said the report prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
“Alarmingly, India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time,” said the report.
For example, air quality has significantly worsened in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, Reuters quoted the report’s statement.
Residents of Allahabad and Lucknow cities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where the annual average concentration of particulate matter was 12 times the WHO average, may lose as much as 11 years of life expectancy, the report said.
The report also lauded India’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP) and said, “achieving and sustaining” the NCAP goals would raise the country’s overall life expectancy by 1.7 years and that of Delhi 3.1 years.”
The report says that Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, which together account for nearly a quarter of the global population, consistently figure in the top five most polluted countries on earth.