A new study authored by Michael Greenstone, director of Energy Policy Institute at Chicago, with prominent economists and public policy experts from Yale and Harvard University, has concluded that almost 660 million people, which is half of India’s population, could add 3.2 years to their lifespan if air quality met the national safe standard.
The study looks at air quality data in different parts of the country from pollution control boards and satellite data.
The study estimates that 660 million people (54.5% of the population) live in regions that do not meet the annual PM 2.5 (particulate matter) standard of 40 microgramme per cubic metre, and 262 million people (21.7% of the population) live in regions with air pollution levels more than twice this standard. The figures are drawn using the 2011 census data.
Almost every Indian (1,204 million people, or 99.5% of the population) lives in an area with PM 2.5 pollution level, above the World Health Organisation’s 10 microgramme per cubic metre guideline.
Michael Greenstone said,“India’s focus is necessarily on growth. But for too long, the conventional definition of growth has ignored the health consequences of air pollution. The study shows that air pollution retards growth by causing people to die prematurely. Other studies have also shown that air pollution reduces productivity at work, increases incidence of sick days, and raises health care expenses that could be devoted to other goods.