Air pollution claimed 54,000 lives in Delhi last year, says report
New Delhi: As per the Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis, air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in Delhi in 2020 while pollution levels stayed almost six times above the prescribed WHO limits. Globally, approximately 1,60,000 deaths have been attributed to PM2.5 air pollution in the five most populated cities like Delhi, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo.
The report said that the damage is equally worrying in other Indian cities as well. It said, “An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow estimated an approximately 12,000, 11,000, 11,000, and 6,700 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted air.”
PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for deaths globally, and was attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015, the study said.
According to the release, a cost estimator is an online tool that tracks the real-time health impact and economic costs of air pollution in major world cities. To show the impact of air pollution related deaths on the economy, the approach used by Greenpeace is called 'willingness-to-pay', a lost life year or a year lived with disability is converted to money by the amount that people are willing to pay in order to avoid this negative outcome.
The cost estimator also sustained the estimated air pollution-related economic losses of USD 8.1 billion (Rs 58,895 crore), which amounts to 13 per cent of Delhi’s annual GDP.
The study suggests that despite a temporary reprieve in air quality owing to the lockdown, the need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems.
“Despite recording relatively better air quality this year due to strict lockdown, air pollution continues to be a serious public health issue which also drastically impacts our economy. For the governments of the day, it is crucial that investments are made towards green and sustainable solutions. When we choose fossil fuel over clean energy, our health is at stake. Polluted air increases the likelihood of deaths due to cancer and stroke, spike in asthma attacks and worsens severity of Covid-19 symptoms,” says Avinash Chanchal, senior climate and energy campaigner, Greenpeace India.
“We need to ensure our growth demand is fueled by sustainable and cleaner sources of energy and cities should promote low cost, active and carbon-neutral transport options that prioritises walking, cycling, and public transport, the increased use of clean energy and clean transport will not only improve the public health but it will also strengthen the economy and public money,” added Chanchal.
Commenting on the revelations made by cost estimator CEO of IQAir, Frank Hammes said, “Breathing should not be deadly. The fact that poor air quality claimed an estimated 1,60,000 lives in the five largest cities alone should give us pause, especially in a year when many cities were seeing lower air pollution levels due to less economic activity. Governments, corporations and individuals must do more to eliminate the sources of air pollution and make our cities better places to live.”