New Delhi, Feb 21: In a shocking news it has been revealed that India's high air pollution is among the worst in the world which can reduce lifespans of its citizens by 3 years.
This alarming news has come to fore a month after US authorities had raised concern about the issue when their President Barack Obama had visited India. At that time the US embassy in New Delhi had even purchased over 1800 air purifiers to protect its employees from rising pollution in national capital.
According to reports, World Health Organisation has ranked India's high air pollution worst which could prove deadly for people, residing in the country.
Over half of India's population - 660 million people - live in areas where fine particulate matter pollution is above India's standards for what is considered safe, said the study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard and Yale published in this week's 'Economic & Political Weekly'.
If India reverses this trend to meet its air standards, those 660 million people would gain about 3.2 years onto their lives, the study said.
Put another way, compliance with Indian air quality standards would save 2.1 billion life-years, it said.
"India's focus is necessarily on growth. However, for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution," said Michael Greenstone, an author of the study and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
"This study demonstrates that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely. Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases the incidence of sick days, and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods."
The new figures come after the WHO estimates showed 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India, including the worst-ranked city, Delhi.
India has the highest rate of death caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world.
"The loss of more than two billion life years is a substantial price to pay for air pollution," said Rohini Pande, also an author and director of Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School.
"It is in India's power to change this in cost effective ways that allow hundreds of millions of its citizens to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Reforms of the current form of regulation would allow for health improvements that lead to increased growth," Pande said.
The authors - who also include Nicholas Ryan of Yale, Janhavi Nilekani and Anish Sugathan of Harvard, and Anant Sudarshan, director of EPIC's India office - offer three policy solutions that would help to cost-effectively decrease India's pollution.
One initial step would be to increase its monitoring efforts and take advantage of new technology that allows for real-time monitoring, the authors said.
US raised concern in January this year
During Obama's visit to the national capital, the Air Quality Index recorded a reading of 222. In December, the US embassy's website calculated Delhi's air quality index (AQI) 260. The index is a measure of air quality on a progressively deteriorating scale of 0 to 500, based on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air.
The US embassy releases hourly AQI figures. Readings in the range of 201-300 are termed 'very unhealthy' as per US health standards.
Air quality in the national capital deteriorated alarmingly. The Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), which directly affects breathing, had gone up by five times from the national ambiance air quality standard.
(With inputs from PTI)