India and China may be the world’s fastest-growing economies and on verge becoming super-powers, but both the nations together accounted for over 50% of the total 5 million deaths globally from air pollution in 2017. Both India and China have initiated significant steps to address the problem that now causes more disease burden than smoking, says a new report on global air pollution by two US-based institutes — Health Effects Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Each of the two countries — India and China — registered over 1.2 million deaths in 2017 from air pollution — which includes ambient as well as household air pollution. On an average, the study — titled State of Global Air 2019— reported that the life of a South Asian child born today will be shortened by two years and six months (over two years) growing up in prevailing high levels of air pollution.
In India, air pollution is the third highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking. Worldwide, air pollution is responsible for more deaths than other risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol use, and physical inactivity.
While around 82% of the disease burden attributable to air pollution stems from chronic non-communicable diseases, it also contributes to communicable disease. In 2017, India recorded 6,73,000 deaths and a loss of 21.3 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to long term exposure to ambient air pollution less than the minimal level, whereas 8,52,000 Chinese died of it the same year and had 19.8 million DALYs.
Together, the two countries accounted for 52% of the nearly 3 million global deaths and 50% of the DALYs from exposure to ambient air pollution. The report states that while China has made initial progress with a slight decline in pollution levels, India has initiated major steps to address pollution sources. It listed the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG programme, accelerated Bharat Stage 6/VI clean vehicle standards, and the new National Clean Air Programme as some of the steps initiated by the government to reduce both outdoor and household air pollution.