Pollution is the world’s largest environmental risk factor for disease and premature deaths, according to the Lancet commission on pollution and health and is responsible for approximately one in six deaths worldwide per year.
A new Lancet study says that pollution led to more than 2.3 million premature deaths in India in 2019. Of these, about 16 lakh deaths happened due to air pollution alone, and over five lakh deaths were caused by water pollution, the study says.
This report, an outcome of the Lancet commission on pollution and health, has provided an updated estimate of how pollution has affected health. The data assessed by the Lancet study team shows that the situation has not improved. It says that “pollution remains a major global threat to health and prosperity, particularly in lower and middle income countries.”
India led the list with with 2.36 million deaths.
“Since 2000, the steady decline in the number of deaths from the ancient scourges of household air pollution, unsafe drinking water, and inadequate sanitation are offset by increasing deaths attributable to the more modern forms of pollution,” Lancet says. “These modern forms of pollution — eg, ambient air pollution, lead pollution, and chemical pollution—require major increases in mitigation and prevention.”
The study blamed pollution for one in every six deaths globally – but importantly, blamed polluted air in India alone for a ninth of all global deaths.
The amount of pollution remains well above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines in 93 per cent of the country.
Lancet says that traditional pollution cost India 3.2 per cent of its GDP in the year 2000 and estimates that these losses have now come down to 1 per cent of the country’s GDP.
And though much work has been undertaken to reduce pollution, the modern forms of pollution – mainly ambient pollution, chemical and lead pollution, have increased, the study says.
“Reductions have occurred in the number of deaths attributable to the types of pollution associated with extreme poverty,” the report says, adding, “however, these reductions in deaths from household air pollution and water pollution are offset by increased deaths attributable to ambient air pollution and toxic chemical pollution (ie, lead).”
“Deaths from these modern pollution risk factors, which are the unintended consequence of industrialisation and urbanisation, have risen by 7 per cent since 2015 and by over 66% since 2000.”
“India has developed instruments and regulatory powers to mitigate pollution sources but there is no centralised system to drive pollution control efforts and achieve substantial improvements,” the study say.
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