Indo-Gangetic Plain residents live 7 years less than other Indians: Study

This is because air quality in the region fails to meet the WHO’s guidelines on particulate pollution

By Shagun
Published: Thursday 31 October 2019

The average life expectancy of those living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) is seven years shorter than those in other regions in India. Blame the air quality: Particulate pollution in the area was twice as much as in the rest of the country, found an analysis of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

Air pollution soared 72 per cent from 1998 to 2016 in these northern plains where 40 per cent of India’s population live. The level didn't meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for fine particulate pollution. 

In 1998, the impact on people’s lives would have been half of what it is today, with residents losing an average 3.7 years in life expectancy.

The states and Union Territories affected by higher pollution include Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

If 1998 levels of pollution had continued over a lifetime, residents living outside of the IGP region would have lost an average of 1.2 years of life expectancy. Because of a 65 per cent increase in pollution, sustained exposure in 2016 is cutting short life expectancy by 2.6 years, relative to the WHO guideline.

That number is also worsening but is much more modest than what has taken place in the IGP, said the report.

In 2019, India launched its National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The programme, which aims to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 per cent nationally, will be implemented over the next five years.

If India is successful in meeting its goals under NCAP and sustaining pollution reductions of about 25 per cent, the AQLI shows that such improvements in air quality would extend the life expectancy of the average Indian by 1.3 years.

Those in the IGP would gain about two years onto their lives.

The findings were announced at the launch of the Hindi version of AQLI.

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