Poisoned existence: Nearly half a billion people living in north India are exposed to extreme levels of life-shortening air pollution | Photo: Canva

Air pollution reducing life expectancy of Indians by 10 years: EPIC study

A new report by The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) found air pollution can reduce the life expectancy of Indians by nine years as North India breathes pollutants that are 10 times worse than those found anywhere else in the world.

The study stated 480 million people in northern India face the “most extreme” levels of air pollution in the world and over the years the toxic levels have expanded to cover other parts of the country. The study added that clean air policies can add up to five years to people’s lives. 

Polluted air has expanded from North India to include western and central Indian states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh where the average person is now losing between two-and-a-half to three years of life expectancy as compared to early 2000, the study stated. According to the study, China reported “sharp reductions in pollution in short order”. Since 2013, the country has reduced its particulate production by 29%, the study found.

1 in 3 countries do not have legally binding air quality norms: UNEP 

The first-ever assessment of air quality laws and regulations by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that one in three countries have no legally binding air pollution standards. Where the laws exist, they are misaligned with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the assessment found. The report also highlighted that 31% of countries that do have the power to introduce such ambient air quality standards have yet to adopt them.

According to the report, in at least 34% of countries, ambient air quality is not yet legally protected. Around 49% of the world’s countries define air pollution exclusively as an outdoor threat, geographic coverage of air quality standards varies, and over half of the countries allow deviations from these standards, the study stated.

Delhi’s air improved 48%, Chennai’s 62% during 2020 lockdown: Global study

Air quality improved as PM 2.5 concentrations fell in Chennai by 62% followed by Amritsar (51%) and Delhi (48%) during the strict lockdown from March 25 to May 31, 2020, compared to the same period between 2015 and 2019, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Global Atmosphere Watch study said. However, the air quality could not be improved before or after the lockdown period, highlighting the need for long-term measures to battle air pollution across cities, reported HT.

During the pre-lockdown period, Paris recorded a 58% reduction, but only 9.5% reduction during lockdown; Augsburg recorded a 70% reduction in PM 2.5 levels during pre-lockdown, but only 6.8% during lockdown period. Munich recorded only 5.3% reduction during lockdown; New York 27%; Sao Paulo 17% and Madrid saw an increase by 17%, which may be linked to meteorological factors, the study said.

New Delhi remained 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 PM2.5 concentrations.

Less than 1% of development finance goes towards cleaning polluted air: State of Global Air Quality Funding 2021

Development funding for projects seeking to improve air quality constitutes less than 1% of the total aid spending worldwide. The low spending is despite a 153% rise in deaths caused by outdoor air pollution in aid recipient countries between 1990 and 2019, new research from Clean Air Fund has revealed. 

The Clean Air Fund’s annual The State of Global Air Quality Funding 2021 report provides the only global snapshot of projects tackling air pollution by donor governments and philanthropic organisations. Overall, governments and philanthropic foundations spent $5.72 billion between 2015-20, a gradual increase over the period. However, preliminary figures suggest this funding dipped by 10% from 2019 ($1.47 billion) to 2020 ($1.33 billion). While fossil fuel combustion accounts for about two-thirds of human exposure to outdoor air pollution, the research also shows that governments have spent 21% more in development assistance on projects that prolong fossil fuel usage ($1.50 billion in 2019 and 2020) than they did on projects with a primary objective of reducing air pollution (around $1.24 billion).

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