A recent report from the prestigious University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) underscores the dire consequences of surging air pollution levels in South Asia, a region plagued by some of the world's most severe pollution. This comprehensive study reveals that the increase in air pollution could slash life expectancy by more than five years per individual.
South Asia, comprising nations such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan, has now become responsible for over 50 percent of the global years of life lost due to pollution, as reported in EPIC's latest Air Quality Life Index. The relentless march of industrialization and the burgeoning population have been the chief culprits behind the declining air quality in this region. Current levels of particulate pollution have surged by over 50 percent compared to the turn of the century, overshadowing even more apparent health hazards.
For instance, the study highlights Bangladesh, dubbed the world's most polluted country, where each citizen stands to lose an average of 6.8 years of life, a stark contrast to the 3.6 months in the United States. The research employs sophisticated satellite data to quantify the life expectancy impact of an upsurge in fine airborne particles.
India emerges as a significant contributor, responsible for a staggering 59 percent of the world's increased pollution levels since 2013, the report notes. Hazardous air quality looms ominously over several of the country's highly polluted regions.
In New Delhi, the world's most densely populated mega-city and an unfortunate leader in pollution, the average lifespan has plummeted by over a decade. The EPIC study spotlights a compelling fact: adhering to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommended limits for PM 2.5 airborne particles, notorious for damaging lungs, could potentially add 2.3 years to average life expectancy. This translates to a remarkable cumulative gain of 17.8 billion life years.
The report delves further, revealing that if WHO guidelines were met, an average resident of Pakistan could gain 3.9 additional years of life, while in Nepal, this figure would be an impressive 4.6 years.
In a contrasting scenario, China emerges as a beacon of hope. The report applauds China's commendable efforts in reducing pollution levels by a remarkable 42.3 percent between 2013 and 2021. This serves as a stark reminder of the pivotal role governments must play in furnishing accessible air quality data, thereby addressing global disparities in the fight against pollution.