NEW DELHI: The average Indian life expectancy is shortened by 5.9 years due to air pollution, compared to what it would be if the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines were met, a global study released on Wednesday said.
Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are the worst-affected states, the report said. Residents of the national capital lose 9.7 years of their lives due to pollution while those in Uttar Pradesh lose 9.5 years, according to findings in the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report, a tool developed by the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC).
Alarmingly, India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time. Compared to a couple of decades ago, particulate pollution is no longer a feature of the Indo-Gangetic plains alone. Pollution has increased so much in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. For example, the average person in those states is now losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, relative to early 2000.
According to new data from the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), all of India’s 1.3 billion people live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the WHO guideline and particulate pollution has increased over time. Since 1998, average annual particulate pollution has increased 15%, cutting 0.9 years off the life of the average resident over those years.
“Nearly 40% of India’s population is exposed to pollution levels not seen in any other country, with 510 million residents of northern India on track to lose 8.5 years of life expectancy on average, if pollution levels persist,” it added.
The annual average PM2.5 concentration in the cities of Allahabad and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh is 12 times the WHO guideline. Residents of Lucknow stand to lose 11.1 years of life expectancy if these pollution levels persist.
In 2019, India’s average particulate matter concentration was 70.3 µg/m³ -the highest in the world and 7 times the WHO’s guideline of 10 µg/m³.
It further says that South Asia is home to the most polluted countries on Earth, with Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan accounting for nearly a quarter of the global population and consistently ranking among the top five most polluted countries in the world.