AQLI
AQLI News

November 19, 2018

India Fact Sheet

India is today the world’s second most polluted country. Particulate pollution is so severe that it shortens the average Indian’s life expectancy by more than four years relative to what it would be if World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines were met.

India is today the world’s second most polluted country, slightly trailing only Nepal. Particulate pollution is so severe that it shortens the average Indian’s life expectancy by more than four years relative to what it would be if World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines were met. This is up from about two years in the late 1990s due to a 69 percent increase in particulate pollution. Concentrations in India’s northern states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi are substantially higher, and the impact on life expectancy exceeds six years.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Over the past two decades, the concentration of fine particulates increased by 69 percent on average across India. As a result, sustained exposure to particulate pollution now reduces the life expectancy of the typical Indian citizen by 4.3 years compared to 2.2 years in 1998.
  • In 1998, Delhi and the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Bihar already suffered from particulate concentrations that exceeded WHO safe levels by factors of 3 to 6 and reduced life expectancy for residents there by between 2 and 5 years. Over the ensuing two decades, pollution in these regions increased to as much as 10 times the WHO safe limit in the case of Uttar Pradesh, where air pollution levels now reduce life expectancy by 8.6 years.
  • Air quality in India’s capital city, Delhi, is among the most deadly in the country. Pollution concentrations there
    averaged 113 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016, reducing life expectancy by more than 10 years for the typical resident.
  • In 2016, the added life-years from compliance with the WHO guideline would raise the average life expectancy at birth from 69 to 73 years—a larger gain than from eliminating unsafe water and poor sanitation, perhaps the second greatest environmental health risk in the country.

“High levels of air pollution are a part of people’s lives in India, just as they were in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and other countries in the past. The last several decades have seen tremendous progress in many of these countries, but this progress did not happen by accident—it was the result of policy choices. As India navigates the dual challenges of sustaining economic growth and protecting environmental quality, the AQLI provides a tool to make the benefits of policies to reduce air pollution concrete.” —Michael Greenstone, EPIC

EPIC-India is working to confront particulate pollution in India. In partnership with the Maharashtra and Odisha governments, EPIC-India has implemented star rating programs (mpcb.info; ospcb.info) that allow the public to view the most- and leastpolluting industrial plants in their areas. EPIC-India is also working with Gujarat officials to pilot the country’s—and world’s—first emissions trading program for particulate pollution.