Air pollution has reduced the life expectancy of Indians by an average of 3.4 years with Delhi topping the list at 6.3 years, according to a study.
Delhi is followed by West Bengal and Bihar at the reduced life expectancy at 6.1 years and 5.7 years, respectively, stated the study conducted by the city-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in collaboration with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Colorado.
However, no significant mortality was observed in Jammu and Kashmir (0.6 years) and Himachal Pradesh (1.2 years).
The study report, titled “Premature mortality in India due to PM2.5 (fine particulate material) and O3 (Ozone) exposure” reveals that PM2.5 has claimed 570,000 lives in 2011 while Ozone 3 has claimed 12,000 lives in the same year.
Along with Delhi and Bihar, other states where life expectancy is found reduced due to air pollution are: Jharkhand (5.2 years), Uttar Pradesh and Odisha (4.8 years), Haryana and Punjab (4.7 years), Chattisgarh (4.1 years), Assam (4 years), Tripura (3.9 years), Meghalaya (3.8 years) and Maharashtra (3.3 years).
As per the report, Uttar Pradesh has the highest premature mortalities due to PM2.5 exposure, which accounts for about 15 per cent of all premature mortalities in the country during 2011, followed by Maharashtra (10 per cent), West Bengal (9 per cent) and Bihar (8 per cent).
States like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan collectively make for 32 per cent of countrywide PM2.5 premature mortalities.
The percentage of the Ozone-related mortalities owing to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) was highest in Uttar Pradesh (18 pc) followed by Bihar (11 pc), West Bengal (9.5 pc), Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh (7 pc each).
“We estimate that PM2.5 exposure leads to about 570,000 premature mortalities in 2011 and on national scale, our estimate of mortality by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CoPD) due to Ozone 3 exposure is about 12,000 people,” said Sachin Ghude, an IITM scientist, who was one of the researchers in the study.
As per the study, the air pollution levels have gone up due to rise in PM2.5 levels as a result of rapid industrialisation, transportation and burning of bio fuels.
It quoted a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) stating that about 78 per cent of the total 141 cities in country exceed the PM2.5 standard.
The study stated that 90 cities have critical levels and 26 cities reaching the most critical levels, exceeding the PM standard by over 3 times.
However, it is not only about the life expectancy, which has been compromised.
“The present day premature mortalities due to PM2.5 and Ozone 3 exposure caused economic cost of approximately 640 billion USD, which is a factor of 10 higher than total expenditure on health by public and private expenditure in India,” the report stated.
The researchers used a high resolution regional chemistry transport model with anthropogenic emissions from Hemisphere Transport of Air pollution, combined with the 2011 Census data.
“Upward trends in transportation, industrial and energy sectors, urbanisation, population growth in India, along with climate change, will raise the levels of O3 and PM2.5 in future, which could worsen the vulnerability of a growing population,” the report stated while calling for immediate measures to be undertaken by the government and even at the individual level to control the situation.