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Air pollution caused 54,000 deaths, $8.1 billion loss in Delhi in 2020

The contamination levels in the national capital remained almost six times above the specified WHO (World Health Organization) limits, according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data

twitter-logoManali | February 19, 2021 | Updated 17:16 IST
Air pollution caused 54,000 deaths, $8.1 billion loss in Delhi in 2020
According to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data, approximately 1,800 deaths per million were caused by PM2.5 air pollution in Delhi

Air pollution, resulting from hazardous PM2.5 fine particulate matter, claimed around 54,000 deaths in Delhi in 2020. The contamination levels in the national capital remained almost six times above the specified WHO (World Health Organization) limits, according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data.

The study further stated that approximately 1,800 deaths per million were caused by PM2.5 air pollution in Delhi. Fine particulate matter PM2.5 is an air pollutant smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. When inhaled, the fine particles penetrate deep into one's lungs causing heart and lung disease.

"The PM2.5 air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in India's national capital in 2020," the study said.

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PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the most important environmental risk factor for deaths globally and was attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015, the study said.

The study noted that the damage is equally worrying in other Indian cities.

"An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Lucknow estimated an approximate 12000, 11000, 11000, and 6700 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted air," it said

Noting that the air pollutant levels in Delhi remained almost six times above the prescribed WHO limits of 10 g/m3 annual mean, the study said the estimated air pollution-related economic losses were $8.1 billion (Rs 58,895 crore), which amounts to 13 per cent of Delhi's annual GDP.

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"Despite a temporary reprieve in air quality owing to the lockdown, the latest figures from the report underscore the need to act immediately. The need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems," the study said.

Globally, approximately 160,000 deaths have been attributed to PM2.5 air pollution in the five most populous cities of Delhi (30 million), Mexico City (22 million), Sao Paulo (22 million), Shanghai (26 million), and Tokyo (37 million), it said.

Despite recording relatively better air quality this year due to strict lockdown, air pollution continues to be a serious public health issue that also drastically impacts the economy. "For the governments of the day, it is crucial that investments are made towards green and sustainable solutions. When we choose fossil fuel over clean energy, our health is put at stake. Polluted air increases the likelihood of deaths due to cancer and stroke, spike in asthma attacks, and worsens the severity of COVID-19 symptoms," said Avinash Chanchal, Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace India."We need to ensure our growing demand is fuelled by sustainable and cleaner sources of energy and cities should promote low cost, active and carbon-neutral transport options that prioritises walking, cycling, and public transport, the increased use of clean energy and clean transport will not only improve public health, but it will also strengthen the economy and public money," added Chanchal.

Also Read: Delhi govt to soon start registration of e-autos, says transport minister

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