'India's air pollution rivals China's as world's deadliest'

Mandy DayFeb 15 , 2017

Over half of the deaths across the world caused by air pollution were in India and China where 2.2 million people died in 2015, a study said on Tuesday. The "State of Global Air 2017" report said that the numbers in India for deaths due to air pollution are approaching that of China's.

Robert O' Keefe, vice president of the Health Effects Institute, said China's premature death rate by unsafe air particles has steadied in the past few years as a result of the country's efforts, despite its 17 percent increase since 1990. Beijing and around two dozen cities were under heavy blanket of smog at the end December 2016.

India's deepening pollution problem, which hit home with a vengeance after Diwali past year as Delhi and NCR woke up enveloped in smog that refused to lift for days, has a death toll second only to China's, and together the two nations account for over half the world's deaths from pollution.

An interactive website on the report also highlights that 92% of the world's population lives in areas with unhealthy air.

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These microscopic particles are so light they float on air and lodge deep in the lungs, and have been linked to higher rates of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and heart disease.

The report said that among the 10 most populous countries and the European Union (EU), Bangladesh and India have the highest exposure to PM2.5, the "steepest" rise since 2010.

In India that number has steadily climbed from an estimated 737,400 deaths a year in 1990 to 1.09 million in 2015.

New Delhi is no less, with dust and diesel-driven cars adding to the pollution woe.

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Pollution has skyrocketed in India, a country of more than a billion people that has undergone a rapid economic transformation in the past two decades, which has been mainly due to India's increasing reliance on burning coal for energy and torching farmland to plant new crops.

In a long-term national healthcare plan published last October, the government acknowledged the link between health and pollution, and pledged to assess the precise impacts as well as boost environmental monitoring capabilities.

"It is now too early to draw conclusions about the extent of the impact of smog on health, especially its long-term impact on the body", a ministry spokesman told media during a press briefing in January.

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