As the world struggles to tackle the menace of climate change and global warming, a report from the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) is raising warning bells for India. Air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40 per cent of Indians by more than nine years, the US research group said in a study.
The dangerous pollution trends will impact 480 million people living in central, eastern and northern India, including New Delhi. The report prepared by the Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) at the University of Chicago states that “Alarmingly, India’s high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time.”
However, the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) goals have a chance of raising the country’s overall life expectancy by 1.7 years and that of New Delhi by 3.1 years. Lauding the program, the report marked that NCAP aims to reduce pollution in the 102 worst-affected cities by 20-30 per cent by 2024 by ensuring cuts in industrial emissions and vehicular exhaust, introducing stringent rules for transport fuels and biomass burning and reducing dust pollution. It will also entail better monitoring systems.
According to the report, an average global citizen loses 2.2 years of life with today’s levels of air pollution and if timely action is not taken it will lead to 17 billion years lost in the process. The report identified air pollution to be more dangerous and life-threatening than smoking, car crashes or HIV/Aids.
The report also highlighted that if action is taken against air pollution people in India could gain a life expectancy of 5.9 years while slashing it would add 5.4 years in Bangladesh and Nepal, and 3.9 years in Pakistan.
A major dependency of countries on fossil fuels like coal to produce energy is the key driver of emissions and rising pollution.
The study comes on the heels of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that identified emissions and human activities as the key drivers of climate change and global warming. The report warned that the frequency of extreme events is set to go up in the coming years as environmental changes continue.
A report by Greenpeace India had earlier painted a grim picture of several states facing the brunt of air pollution in India despite successive Covid-19 lockdown that reduced traffic led emissions. Among eight state capitals, Delhi had the worst breathable air with a massive spike of 125 per cent in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentrations during April 2021 as compared to the corresponding month in 2020.