India Tops List of Countries with Pollution-Linked Deaths

Nine million people died globally due to pollution in 2015, a study published in Lancet showed.


Pollution resulted in the deaths of nine million people in 2015, with India topping the list of countries where lives were lost due to the menace. As many as 2.5 million people died because of pollution in India alone, according to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which undertook a two-year study on the topic.

The number of deaths due to pollution globally is three times more than that caused by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Scientists have called on the governments of poor countries to take action as these nations fare worst.

“With globalization, mining and manufacturing shifted to poorer countries, where environmental regulations and enforcement can be lax,” Karti Sandilya, one of the authors and an adviser to environmental group Pure Earth, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “People in poorer countries — like construction workers in New Delhi — are more exposed to air pollution and less able to protect themselves from exposure, as they walk, bike or ride the bus to workplaces that may also be polluted.” Sandiya added that people in developed countries travel from air-conditioned cars to air conditioned offices.

The Supreme Court of India had recently banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi before Diwali to ensure that the air pollution in the city doesn’t rise to “severe” level. However, the ban did not stop people from bursting firecrackers in the capital.

“I was hoping for a clean & peaceful Diwali. But again, every burst of cracker echoed Delhi’s ‘I don’t care’ loud and clear. Delhiites continue to choke on pollution. It is a reflection of our dismissive & disrespectful attitude towards society, law & justice. When will we learn,” tweeted Nobel laureate social activist Kailash Satyarthi.

The commission, which brings more than 40 international health and environmental authors, said that countries undergoing rapid industrialization — India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya — are the worst affected, and that more than 50 per cent of global deaths due to ambient air pollution in 2015 occurred in India and China. Also part of the study was former Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh and IIT-Delhi’s professor Mukesh Khare.

Among the 2.51 million deaths in India, 0.17 million were due to occupational exposure while 95,000 people died of lead pollution.

“For this, the government will need to take a lead role and formulate strategies on an urgent basis. Otherwise, the growing economy in the country will be a curse to the common man because this is coming at the cost of suffering and death,” said Sundeep Salvi, a member of the health ministry’s committee on air pollution and health.

High levels of air pollution can lead to problems in the respiratory system and can lead to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. In fact, the elderly and those with heart and lung disease are told to not step out of the house when air pollution levels are high.

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