On January 10, 2019, India’s Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan declared a “war against pollution” as he launched a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The Programme, which aims to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 percent from 2017 levels by 2024, begins immediately through a combination of city-specific pollution reduction plans and national initiatives. If India reduces particulate pollution by 25 percent (the midpoint of the NCAP’s goal), residents breathing the most polluted air—namely in Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh—could live almost 3 years longer. The average Indian could live 1.3 years longer, according to the latest report from the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), which translates particulate air pollution into its impact on life expectancy.
“The payoffs from the successful implementation of NCAP could be substantial, with people in the most polluted areas – like Delhi – living almost three years longer,” said Michael Greenstone, who created the Index along with his colleagues at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), which he directs. “For this reason, NCAP has the potential to become a historic and watershed moment in Indian environmental policy.”
The AQLI report, India’s ‘War Against Pollution’: An Opportunity for Longer Lives, also shows that if India reduced particulate pollution by 25 percent:
- The country would be in compliance with its national standard, and be about 30 percent of the way to meeting the World Health Organization’s guideline for a safe level of exposure.
- The residents living in the 102 cities singled out by the NCAP for having higher pollution levels than the national average would gain 1.4 years onto their lives.
- In Delhi, people would live 2.8 years longer. Those in Kanpur would live 2.4 years longer. And, in Kolkata, people would live 1.1 years longer.
ABOUT THE AIR QUALITY LIFE INDEX®
The AQLI is a pollution index that translates particulate air pollution into perhaps the most important metric that exists: its impact on life expectancy. Developed by the University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman Professor in Economics Michael Greenstone and his team at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the AQLI is rooted in recent research that quantifies the causal relationship between long-term human exposure to air pollution and life expectancy. The Index then combines this research with hyper-localized, global particulate measurements, yielding unprecedented insight into the true cost of particulate pollution in communities around the world. The Index also illustrates how air pollution policies can increase life expectancy when they meet the World Health Organization’s guideline for what is considered a safe level of exposure, existing national air quality standards, or user-defined air quality levels. This information can help to inform local communities and policymakers about the importance of air pollution policies in concrete terms.
More: Read the AQLI report, India’s ‘War Against Pollution’: An Opportunity for Longer Lives