‘660 Million Indians Losing Three Years of Life Due to Air Pollution’

Published: 21st February 2015 08:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st February 2015 08:36 PM   |  A+A-

WASHINGTON: If India can refine its goals to meet air standards, 660 million people would add about 3.2 years into their lives, a significant research has found, adding that compliance with Indian air quality standards would save 2.1 billion life-years.

The team involving several Indian-origin researchers from the Universities of Chicago, Harvard and Yale have found that India's high air pollution, ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as some of the worst in the world, is having an adverse impact on lifespans.

"India's focus is necessarily on growth. However, for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution," said Michael Greenstone, lead study author and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) in a University press release.

The new figures came after the WHO estimates showed 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India, including the worst-ranked city - Delhi.

India has the highest rate of death caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world.

This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely.

"The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution. It is in India's power to change this in cost-effective ways that allow hundreds of millions of its citizens to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives," emphasised Rohini Pande, co-author and director of Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School.

"Reforms of the current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth," she noted.

The authors, Nicholas Ryan of Yale, Janhavi Nilekani and Anish Sugathan of Harvard, and Anant Sudarshan, director of EPIC's India office, offer three policy solutions that would help to cost-effectively decrease India's pollution.

One initial step would be for India to increase its monitoring efforts and take advantage of new technology that allows for real-time monitoring.

"Intermittent sampling of plants taken once or twice a year is not enough to identify violators," the authors wrote.

Further, there is not enough pollution monitoring stations for the public to learn about ambient concentrations.

As one point of comparison, Beijing has 35 monitoring stations while the Indian city with the most monitoring stations, Kolkata, has only 20.

Additionally, the authors say a greater reliance on civil rather than criminal penalties would instill a "polluter pays" system that would provide polluters with an incentive to reduce pollution.

"Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases the incidence of sick days, and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods," Greenstone concluded.

India Matters


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