At 2.5 Million, India Topped Global Chart of Pollution-Related Deaths in 2015, Finds Study

Pollution caused nine million deaths globally in 2015 – three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

India has also topped the list of deaths linked to polluted air. Credit: PTI

India has also topped the list of deaths linked to polluted air. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: At a time when India’s capital city has been enveloped by a blanket of smog with air quality ranging between ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’ post Diwali celebration, a study has found that the country occupies the top spot globally in terms of pollution-related deaths in 2015.

According to a report in The Lancet medical journal, pollution caused nine million deaths in 2015 – three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

India accounted for 2.5 million of those deaths – also topping the list of deaths linked to polluted air (1.81 million) and water (0.64 million) – with China following close behind at 1.8 million.

The study carried out by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health states that one in six of all deaths worldwide is caused by pollution with the vast majority – over 90% – occurring in developing and rapidly industrialising countries such as India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya.

“With globalisation, mining and manufacturing shifted to poorer countries, where environmental regulations and enforcement can be lax,” said Karti Sandilya, one of the authors and an adviser to the environmental group Pure Earth. “People in poorer countries – like construction workers in New Delhi – are more exposed to air pollution and less able to protect themselves from exposure, as they walk, bike or ride the bus to workplaces that may also be polluted.”

Exposure to high levels of air pollution – especially over many years – can take a toll on human respiratory and inflammatory systems, with possibilities of heart diseases, stroke and lung cancer.

According to an NDTV report, the study is part of a two-year project that involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors led by Philip Landrigan, an environmental scientist, and Richard Fuller, founder of Pure Earth and the secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

Among the authors are also former environment minister Jairam Ramesh and IIT-Delhi’s professor Mukesh Khare.

The study further found that of the 2.51 million deaths in India, 0.17 million were due to occupational exposure and 95,000 were linked to lead pollution.

Describing the findings as “major,” Sundeep Salvi, a member of the health ministry’s steering committee on air pollution and health, told Indian Express that it was “time to wake up” and start finding innovative solutions.

“For this, the government will need to take a lead role and formulate strategies on an urgent basis. Otherwise, the growing economy in the country will be a curse to the common man because this is coming at the cost of suffering and death.”

India’s apex court had recently banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR till October end to check the level of air pollution during Diwali, but despite the Supreme Court order, pollution in several areas of the city has surpassed normal levels.

According to indicators of pollution monitoring systems, concentration of PM 2.5 and PM 10 (particulate matters that are ten or less than ten and 2.5 or less than 2.5 micrometres in diametre) has risen alarmingly in Delhi. PM level 2.5 has grown more than PM 10, India Today reported.

At 8 am on Friday, PM 2.5 in RK Puram had reached 925 microns, while the standard is 60 microns, according to data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. The air quality index, at 326, stood at “very poor”.

(With agency inputs)

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    Many reports have indicated the dangerous levels of pollution in Delhi and other places during the past couple of years. But as yet, there has been no affective environment policy to control pollution. Though SC has begun to intervene, it may not be enough unless the government takes steps urgently and starts preventive measures