New Delhi: According to a new report of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) developed by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the life expectancy of an average Indian will increase by a year and three months, if the recently launched National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) gets successful in meeting its goals. NCAP was launched by the government of India on January 10 with an aim to reduce particulate air pollution which is considered as a great threat to human health. NCAP aims to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 percent nationally over the next five years with 2017 as the base year.
The NCAP has shortlisted 102 cities called the non-attainment cities that have higher pollution levels than the national average. It has proposed multiple strategies to combat air pollution in these most-polluting cities in the country. According to AQLI, these cities stand to gain more if they follow through with their pollution reduction action plans.
AQLI in its report titled “The Potential Benefits of India’s ‘War Against Pollution’: Longer Lives” says that if all of the 102 cities reduced particulate pollution by 25 per cent, their aggregate annual average PM2.5 exposure would be 14 µg/m³ lower than 2016 levels. This would translate to an average gain in life expectancy of one year and three months.
AQLI, which is a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into its impact on life expectancy further found that if India reduced particulate pollution by 25 per cent, people in the most polluted cities where the pollution has crossed the emergency levels multiple times in the last few months, will have the gain of 2-3 years. For example people living in Delhi would live 2.8 years longer, in Kanpur 2.4 year more, in Lucknow 2.6 years more, in Ghaziabad 2.9 years more, and in Kolkata for 1.1 years more.
Michael Greenstone, who created the index along with his colleagues at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), said in a statement,
The payoffs from the successful implementation of the NCAP could be substantial with people in the most polluted areas like Delhi living almost three years longer.
Giving examples of the measure taken by China to curb pollution, the report says that significant progress is possible with an ongoing political commitment to fight pollution India. It says that since China declared its commitment to curb pollution, it has achieved reductions in PM2.5 that are comparable to those that the NCAP proposes, with related benefits for life expectancy there.
Sunil Dahiya, the national air pollution campaigner of Greenpeace India said that if indeed we are able to implement NCAP successfully we will be able to achieve an increase in higher life expectancy as found by AQLI but the past experience of the implementation of the emergency action plan, Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has been questionable. He added,
Earlier the AQLI said that with the high level of pollution in Delhi-NCR, people living in these years may lose up to 10 years of their lives. The recent AQLI says that there will be an increase of only 2.8 years in the life expectancy of Delhiites. This means that we are still in a loss of 7.2 years.
Mr. Dahiya further points out that the 102 cities singled out by the Ministry of Environment are not enough, there are more than 240 cities in India that have pollution level higher than the standard limit of ambient air quality as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, the report gives a crucial reminder of why it is vital to achieving the goals of NCAP and how breathing clean air can impact the health and life of India’s people.
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