A recent report of the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), published by Michael Greenstone from the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC), estimated that Indians were losing 5.3 years of life expectancy on average due to the health effects of air pollution. The estimate for Delhi was worse, with life lost estimated to be 11.9 years. Apart from the impact on early death, high levels of disability and chronic illness are the penalties that polluted air levies for our folly of fouling the environment.
Delhi features at the top or near the top of the world’s most polluted cities, with Wuhan and Lahore sometimes relieving us of the dubious distinction of wearing the carbon crown. However, Delhi is not alone among the Indian cities. In a 2022 list of the 50 most polluted cities put out by IQAir, a Swiss air quality information platform, 39 of them are Indian. Rural areas too are not free of pollution, as dust from unpaved roads and smoke from burnt biomass fuels meet fossil fuel emissions of vehicular intrusions from encroaching modernity.