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Toxic air may cut short lives of 40% of Indians, report says

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-09-02 09:48
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Fishermen work in the heavily polluted waters of the Yamuna River, with a thick white layer of toxic foam showing high water pollution levels in New Delhi on Aug 26. MANISH RAJPUT/NEWSCOM

NEW DELHI-Air pollution is likely to reduce the life expectancy of about 40 percent of Indians by more than nine years, according to a report released by a US research group on Wednesday.

More than 480 million people living in vast swathes of central, eastern and northern India, including the capital New Delhi, endure significantly high pollution levels, said the report prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, or EPIC.

"Alarmingly, India's high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time," read the report.

For example, air quality has significantly worsened in the western state of Maharashtra and the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

India's National Clean Air Programme, or NCAP, was launched in 2019 to rein in dangerous pollution levels, and the EPIC report said "achieving and sustaining "the NCAP goals would raise the country's overall life expectancy by 1.7 years and that of New Delhi by 3.1 years.

The NCAP aims to reduce pollution in 102 of the worst-affected cities by 20 to 30 percent by 2024 by ensuring cuts in industrial emissions and vehicular exhaust, introducing stringent rules for transport fuels and biomass burning, and reduce dust pollution.

It will also entail better monitoring systems.

Most polluted capital

New Delhi was the world's most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on the concentration of lung-damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5.

Last year, New Delhi's 20 million residents breathed some of the cleanest air on record in the summer because of coronavirus lockdown curbs, but battled toxic air in the winter following a sharp increase in farm residue burning in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana.

According to findings by EPIC, neighboring Bangladesh could raise average life expectancy by 5.4 years if India improves air quality to levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

In calculating the life expectancy figure, EPIC compared the health of people exposed to different levels of long-term air pollution and applied the results to various places in India and elsewhere.

Agencies Via Xinhua

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