Pollution to Reduce Life Expectancy in North India by 7 Yrs: AQLI

“The average citizen living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) region of India can expect to lose about 7 years of life expectancy because air quality fails to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for fine particulate pollution”, says an Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report.

AQLI, developed by Energy Policy Institute of Chicago (EPIC), uses a highly localized pollution index to determine the impact of various pollutants on the life expectancy of people in that region. It also provides insight into how air pollution policies could reverse these effects if the WHO guidelines for air quality standards are met.

AQLI Report“Pollution is nearly three times deadlier in north India as compared to rest of the country.”

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More than 480 million people (about 40 percent of India's population) reside in the seven states and union territories that comprise the bulk of the Indo-Gangetic Plain region — namely Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.

From 1998-2016, the Indo-Gangetic Plain region experienced particulate pollution that was about twice as high as the rest of the country, a new analysis of the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) said.

"By 2016, a 72 percent increase in pollution in the region further shortened the lives of residents by 3.4 to 7.1 years," the study said.

In comparison, lower concentrations of pollution in the rest of the country are allowing residents to live longer than those in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the study said.

The AQLI showed that if India is successful in meeting its goals under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and sustaining pollution reductions of about 25 percent, such improvements in air quality would extend the life expectancy of the average Indian by 1.3 years.

The graphs presented by AQLI show the improvement in life expectancy as a result of the reduction in pollution to levels within the WHO recommended standards.

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The findings were announced at an event organized to launch the AQLI in Hindi in a bid to expand the Index's ability to inform citizens and policy makers about particulate air pollution.

Speaking at the event, Arvind Kumar, a lung specialist at Gangaram Hospital, said the situation in Delhi is a "public health emergency" and it is time for action to control the increasing pollution.

"Clean air is a human right. Despite what politicians claim, the fact remains that we are staying in the same bad air as it was five years ago," Kumar said.

Gaurav Gogoi, an MP from Assam, said agencies like the Central Pollution Control Board are presently ‘very diluted’, and need to be strengthened. "I am working towards introducing a private member's bill to come up with a new Clean Air (Amendment) Act where the health impacts of air pollution are given top priority.

Gaurav Gogoi, MP, Assam“It’s high time that we, as policy makers, use evidence-based data to formulate policies that clean up our skies and help our citizens live longer and healthier lives.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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