Delhi on track to lose 11.9 years of life to pollution: Study

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The capital city has emerged as the world’s most polluted megacity in the world in a new study which has also found that its residents are on track to lose 11.9 years of life if the current levels of pollution persist.

The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago also showed that all of India’s 1.3 billion people live in areas where the annual average particulate pollution level exceeds the 5 µg/m3 limit set by World Health Organization (WHO). The study has also found that 67.4 per cent of the country’s population lives in areas that exceed the country’s own national air quality standard of 40 µg/m3.

The study said fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) shortens an average Indian’s life expectancy by 5.3 years, relative to what it would be if the 5 µg/m3 pollution limit set by (WHO) was met.

The AQLI said that Delhi is the most polluted city in the world with its 18 million residents on track to lose 11.9 years of life expectancy on average relative to the WHO limit and 8.5 years relative to the national guideline if the current pollution levels persist.

“According to new and revised 2021 satellite-derived PM2.5 data, pollution in India has increased from 56.2 µg/m3 in 2020 to 58.7 µg/m3 in 2021—more than 10 times the WHO guideline. The average Indian resident is set to lose 5.3 years of life expectancy if the WHO guideline is not met”, the study said.

Though particulate pollution in the northern plains is exacerbated by geologic and meteorological factors, the AQLI’s dust and sea salt-removed PM 2.5 data imply that human activity plays a key role in generating severe particulate pollution.

That is likely because the region’s population density is nearly three times the rest of the country, meaning more pollution from vehicular, residential and agricultural sources, the study said.