Toxic air: Scale of India’s air pollution crisis revealed in new data

By: | Published: December 7, 2018 10:39 PM

The research released Thursday found 13 per cent of India’s deaths -- one out of every eight -- could be attributed to bad air, underscoring the scale of the South Asian nation’s battle with the world’s deadliest air.


More people died from smog than from household smoke generated by cooking fires. (Reuters)

Roughly 1.24 million people died in 2017 from India’s air pollution, according to The Lancet. The research released Thursday found 13 per cent of India’s deaths — one out of every eight — could be attributed to bad air, underscoring the scale of the South Asian nation’s battle with the world’s deadliest air.

Key Insights

More people died from smog than from household smoke generated by cooking fires. That’s important because Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has distributed millions of liquefied petroleum gas canisters to stop people burning dung cakes and wood inside their homes. Despite that, researchers found more than half of Indians remained exposed to indoor smoke from cooking fires. In poor states like Bihar and Jharkhand, the percentage of people using fires was above 75 per cent.

The smog was concentrated in northern India and was the worst in the country’s infamously smoggy capital, New Delhi. However, researchers found 77 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people were exposed to air far dirtier than recommended limits.

The poor are the worst hit by pollution, according to The Lancet.

India’s life expectancy would increase by 1.7 years nationally and by two years in north Indian states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, if air quality was at a healthier level. The Lancet’s data could put more pressure on Indian politicians to act.

The environment ministry in New Delhi has criticized international studies, saying they use “extrapolation” that is “probably not realistic.” But this research was funded, in part, by India’s own health ministry.

Indian states need to have a multifaceted approach that targets “power production, industry, transport, fuel use, urban planning, construction, and agriculture,” according to the research

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