From Punjab to Bengal, 48 crore people may die 7 years early but all is not lost

A recent study on pollution data from India says people living in Punjab-Bengal belt are likely to lose seven years of life expectancy due to foul air. But, there is still some hope if India follows WHO guidelines.

Pollution is the biggest killer on the planet and India is the second-most polluted country in the world, according to a new study conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) in terms of PM2.5. Nepal has been found as having the worst air quality index in the study of 225 countries.

The study has found that India has failed miserably in checking air pollution in accordance with the standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). As a result, more than 48 crore people, or nearly 40 percent population of India face a risk of losing life expectancy by seven years.

The latest Sample Registration Survey for 2013-17 found that the life expectancy of India has improved from 67 years in 2011 Census figures to 69 years.

However, for the people living in the seven states of the Indo-Gangetic plain Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal the average life expectancy would be cut short by seven years to only 62 due to dangerous level of air pollution. To put in context, for most salaried people, retirement age is between 60 and 65 years.

WHY THIS CHOKING?

This is due to a 72 per cent increase in pollution from 1998 to 2016 in the region. Data for past three years when air pollution has been reported to have gone up further has not been factored in by the researchers for this study. The loss of years from an individual’s life in Punjab-Bengal belt, in reality, would be definitely more.

The EPIC study found that the impact of pollution on people’s lives in 1998 would have been half of what it is today. The residents of the Punjab-Bengal belt lost only 3.7 years of life expectancy. The PM2.5 pollution in these seven states was twice as high as the rest of country during 1998-2016.

A total of 14 cities were found in the study where residents faced risk of losing more than 10 years of life expectancy due to pollution. Delhi is one of them. Here is loss of years from average life expectancy is 10.2 years. Uttar Pradesh has 10 of the most polluted cities with Faridabad in Haryana being the other city having worse air quality.

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