NEW DELHI (dpa) – Indian air pollution is cutting short 660 million lives by about three years, research published Saturday found.
About 54.5 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people live in areas where fine particles, a particularly dangerous form of air pollution, are above Indian standards for what is considered safe, the study published in the Economic & Political Weekly said.
If the air standards are meet, it would increase the life expectancies for those people by 3.2 years on average, the study conducted by economists at the universities of Chicago, Harvard and Yale said.
The experts noted their estimates might be too conservative because they did not account for the impact of other air pollutants or the impact of particulates on morbidity or labour productivity.
The researchers advised India to adopt measures to reduce pollution that are compatible with its continued economic growth, which is vital for the country’s future.
“Today, too many Indians are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution that are shortening lives and holding back the Indian economy,” their report said.
The authors recommended policy changes that included restructuring environmental laws and regulations around civil rather than criminal penalties. Penalties built on an outdated criminal system were so severe that they are seldom used and reserved for the worst polluters, they said.
They also recommended implementing market-based environmental regulations and improving accuracy and coverage of pollution monitoring.
“A variety of effective policy solutions are available that would efficiently reduce this scourge,” they said.
The World Health Organization last year estimated that 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities were in India, including New Delhi, which was the worst-ranked city.
India also has the highest rate of deaths caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world.