As many as 100,000 premature deaths in India were due to air pollution, a new study has found. In fact, the number of people dying prematurely from exposure to polluted air was highest in cities in South Asia.
In India, the most impacted cities include Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Surat, Pune and Ahmedabad. The increase in the number of people dying prematurely from exposure to air pollution was highest in cities in South Asia, in particular Dhaka in Bangladesh at 24,000 people.
The study released this week, led by researchers at the University of Birmingham and UCL has revealed that around 180,000 avoidable deaths over 14 years in fast- growing tropical cities were caused by a rapid rise in emerging air pollution. It was published in Science Advances on April 8.
Through this study, the international team of scientists have aimed to address data gaps in air quality for future megacities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The research was done using space-based observations from instruments on board NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) satellites for 2005 to 2018.
Cities analysed in South Asia include Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Chittagong, Dhaka, Hyderabad, Karachi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Surat. In Africa, it includes Abidjan, Abuja, Addis Ababa, Antananarivo, to name a few.
For Southeast Asia they studied Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Manila, Phnom Penh and Yangon.
In Middle East, they covered Riyadh and Sana’a.
Across all the cities, the authors found significant annual increases in pollutants directly hazardous to health of up to 14 per cent for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and up to eight per cent for fine particles (PM2.5), as well as increases in precursors of PM2.5 of up to 12 per cent for ammonia and up to 11 per cent for reactive volatile organic compounds.
The researchers attributed this rapid degradation in air quality to emerging industries and residential sources like road traffic, waste burning, and widespread use of charcoal and fuelwood. The scientists have also found 1.5 to four-fold increases in urban population exposure to air pollution over the study period in 40 of the 46 cities for NO2 and 33 of the 46 cities for PM2.5, caused by a combination of population growth and rapid deterioration in air quality.