According to the latest Lancet report, 16.7 lakh deaths were attributable to air pollution in India in 2019, accounting for 17.8% of the total deaths in the country. In an economic standpoint, India lost around 1.36% of its GDP from the premature deaths and morbidity attributable to air pollution. In fiscal terms, it comes around to Rs 26 lakh crore.
The economic loss a proportion of the state GDP varied 3.2 times and was highest among the low per-capita (average per individual resident) GDP states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest loss to GDP at 1.34 per cent followed by Punjab at 1.22 per cent. Meanwhile, Delhi recorded the highest per capita economic loss with Rs 4,500 per person, followed by Haryana at Rs 4,000 per person.
The report — titled Health and economic impact of air pollution in the states of India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 — says, “Evidence of the adverse effects of air pollution on health has been growing in India. Studies from India have shown that short-term and long-term exposures are associated with disease burden and mortality.”
The report also addresses how air pollution and its subsequent effects affect the economic workings of a country. “Diseases attributable to air pollution adversely affect economic growth through reduced productivity and decreased labour supply, and via health-care expenditures and lost welfare,” it says. The researchers utilised a mechanism to calculate the economic costs by including the direct costs of healthcare as well as indirect costs, measured as the loss of output.
Air pollution has always been a concern in India, especially with Delhi faring the worst at the end of each year. While different sections have approached the problem in different angles, the Centre and state government have rarely brought out a comprehensive protocol to curb the problem. According to the 2019 list of most polluted cities, 21 of the 30 most polluted cities belong to India, as well as seven of the top ten.