India’s over 121 billion strong population stands to gain almost 3.3 years of their life if all parts of the country adhere to the air quality standards laid down by the government, a new study by well-known Environment Economist Professor Michael Greenstone, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed. Greenstone, who presented his study at the recently held annual meeting of Public Health Federation of India (PHFI), said that almost 6.28 million population in 281 districts of India is exposed to health risks due to poor adherence to pollution standards. Greenstone, who also served as the Chief Economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors in the first year of his Administration and was editor of The Review of Economics and Statistics, said India should allow civil penalties for pollution related cases and wind down diesel subsidies to decrease transport emissions.
It could consider imposing a congestion tax and parking prices for cities like Delhi, which have a big huge vehicle population. As per the Environmental Performance Index study, India officially has the “worst air pollution in the world, beating China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh”, and ranks last on ambient air quality of all 170 plus countries surveyed. Experts say that sustained exposure to fine Particulate Matter (PM) on a sustained basis can cause a range of upper and lower respiratory ailments, including chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and acute lower respiratory infections. In India, exposure to PM is estimated to contribute to over 100,000 premature deaths annually, the study showed. Studies have shown that high levels of Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) result in over 48,000 new cases of bronchitis every year and approximately 370,000 hospital admissions. Children are especially vulnerable as exposure to PM affects lung development, integrating irreversible deficits in lung function and affecting lung growth rates.