New Delhi: Air pollution continues to pose a significant threat to global health. According to the Air Quality Life (AQL) Index released by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) on Tuesday (August 29), South Asia is home to the world’s most polluted countries and a quarter of the global population. The six countries with the highest number of polluted regions include Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia, accounting for more than half of the total life years lost globally to pollution.
Last year, India was among the four most polluted countries in the world, besides Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.
The report further highlighted that due to rising levels of air pollution, life expectancy can cut by more than five years per person in these countries. The report also said that in South Asia, the particulate pollution (PM 2.5) level has increased 9.7 per cent from 2013 to 2021, reducing the life expectancy in these six countries by an additional six months.
Here are the highlights of the report:
- Globally, the average PM2.5 level increased between 2020 and 2021, from 28 to 28.2 micrograms per cubic metre, more than five times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.
- The average world pollution levels have fallen slightly in the last decade, and the maximum improvement has been driven by China, where a 10-year ‘war on pollution’ has seen PM2.5 drop by more than 40 per cent since 2013. The country has seen an improvement, but it still remains significantly higher than the WHO recommendation of 5 micrograms.
- About India, the report stated that since 2013 up till 2021, the country accounted for about 59 per cent increase in the global air pollution alone. The report said that the residents are expected to lose about five years of life expectancy on average, if the current levels of pollution persist.
- India’s particulate pollution (PM 2.5) levels rose 9.5 per cent, from 2013 to 2021. Rapid industrialisation and population growth have been stated as contributing factors to the depletion in air quality in the country.
- Between 2020-21, the pollution levels in India have increased from 56.2 micrograms per cubic metre to 58.7 micrograms per cubic metre, which is more than 10 times the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline (5 micrograms per cubic metre).
- The northern states and union territories are the most polluted region of India and the average resident is estimated to lose nearly eight years of life expectancy.
- Delhi has been called the ‘most polluted megacity in the world’. The annual PM2.5 level in 2021 was 126.5 micrograms per cubic metre, which is 25 times more than the WHO guideline. The average lifespan in the national union territory is down by 11.9 years.
- The particulate matter pollution is the biggest threat to health in India in terms of lowering life expectancy, beating cardiovascular diseases and child and maternal malnutrition. The particulate pollution takes nearly 5.3 years off the life of the average Indian, whereas, cardiovascular diseases reduce life expectancy by about 4.5 years, and child and maternal malnutrition by 1.8 years.
India’s Efforts In Combating Air Pollution
The AQLI report highlighted India’s efforts in mitigating air pollution, such as the launch of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in 2019, with the goal of reducing pollution levels by 20 to 30 per cent by 2024.
In 2022, the NCAP goals were revised with the aim of achieving a 40 per cent reduction in PM 2.5 levels by 2026 in 131 non-attainment cities (cities that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for over five years).
If these cities are covered, the national average life expectancy would increase by 7.9 months and by 4.4 years for residents of Delhi, the report stated.
The AQLI report also recommended the countries to bring down the global pollution levels to the recommended World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, as it could raise average life expectancy by 2.3 years.
To further up India’s comittment towards curbing air pollution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
pledged that the country would cut its emissions to net zero by 2070, at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in November 2021.
The Prime Minister had said that by 2030, the country’s projected carbon emissions would be reduced by one billion.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.