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According to the latest Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) by the Energy Policy Institute, Delhi’s air pollution is cutting lives by almost ten years, while in Lucknow, it is nine and a half years. The Index converts levels of pollution into its effects on human health and life expectancy.
India is home to 1 billion people that reside in places where the particulate pollution level goes beyond the WHO safe limit of 5µg/m³ every year. Air pollution kills thousands of people in India every year. The Northern Indian region is not only the most polluted region in India but in the entire world. More than a billion people from Punjab to West Bengal will likely lose seven years of life expectancy on average if current levels of air pollution continue.
The data in the index makes air pollution more deadly than smoking, which decreases life expectancy by almost 1.5 years and child and maternal malnutrition by 1.8 years. The air pollution that reaches high levels in Delhi and other parts of north India during the winter season contains the toxic particulate matter known as PM2.5. PM2.5 particulates can reach human lungs and other organs and cause various diseases.
According to the Air Quality Life Index, around 510 million people reside in northern India- almost 40 percent of India’s population is severely affected by pollution. Reducing pollution levels in Delhi and other parts of north India would result in 240 million people gaining ten years in life expectancy.
The authors of the report call the air pollution situation in northern India the most significant global health threat with risks beginning from childhood. In 2019, India’s particulate matter concentration was 70µg/m³– the highest in the world. The air pollution levels will keep rising even in 2022.
During the last two decades, India’s vehicular traffic and coal-fired power plants increased significantly. Industrial development, urbanization, economic development, and the growing use of fossil fuels combined add to the increasing amounts of air pollution in India.
Since 1998, the average annual air pollution has increased by 61.4 percent. Since 2013, approximately 44 percent of the increase in air pollution in the world was from India. The country has an enormous impact on global population-weighted air pollution levels due to its huge population.
The issue of air pollution in India, especially in northern regions like Delhi, is never discussed outside pollution levels during the winter seasons. However, efforts are being taken by agencies. The Air Quality Life Index highlights the need for solutions to this grave issue.