Toxic air killed more people in India in 2019 than in 2017, The Lancet said in a report shared by the government on Tuesday, with 1.67 million deaths accounting for 18% of all fatalities.
India, whose cities top global pollution lists, faces a growing economic as well as human toll from bad air quality, which was linked to 1.24 million, or 12.5% of total deaths in the previous such study for 2017.
The analysis found pollution led to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neonatal disorders, and cataracts.
Land-locked New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital whose winter skies are often obscured by its filthy air, recorded the highest per-capita economic hit, the journal said.
The study group estimated exposure to ambient particulate matter pollution, household air pollution, and ambient ozone pollution, and their attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years in every state of India as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) 2019.
They also estimated the economic impact of air pollution as the cost of lost output due to premature deaths and morbidity attributable to air pollution for every state of India, using the cost-of-illness method.
The fatalities in 2019 led to a total loss of $36.8 billion, or 1.36% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), with the poor and populous states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar experiencing the highest economic loss as a percentage of their GDP.
Delhi had the highest per-capita economic loss due to air pollution, followed by Haryana in 2019, with 5·4 times variation across all states.
Although the death rate due to household air pollution fell 64.2% from 1990 to 2019, that due to ambient particulate matter pollution more than doubled, The Lancet said.
“The improvements in air quality across India during the COVID-19 lockdown period, and its upsurge again with the easing of restrictions, provide interesting pointers to the extent of air pollution reduction that is possible with reduced human activity,” it added.
The high burden of death and disease due to air pollution and its associated substantial adverse economic impact from loss of output could impede India’s aspiration to be a $5 trillion economy by 2024.
Successful reduction of air pollution in India through state-specific strategies would lead to substantial benefits for both the health of the population and the economy.
India’s three main cities, New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, were on the list of the world’s 20 worst polluted cities, Swiss air quality technology company IQAir reported on Tuesday.