Although the coronavirus pandemic forced us inside our homes for nearly half a year, the pollution levels in the country haven't taken a backseat. In fact a recent report by Greenpeace suggests nearly 2,00,000 deaths were attributed to air pollution in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad despite the strict lockdown.
The Greenpeace Southeast Asia Analysis of IQAir data titled "Greenpeace: Cost to Economy Due to Air Pollution Analysis 2021" stated that air pollution caused economic damages to the tune of ₹2 lakh crore in India.
The study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Analysis and Swiss firm IQAir measured air quality by recording the concentration of poisonous PM2.5 particles, which are less than 2.5 microns in diameter and can cause deadly diseases, including cancer and cardiac problems.
Among the various cities graded, Delhi reportedly witnessed the highest number of deaths at 54,000. Following that has been Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi with an approximate deaths of 12,000, 11,000, 11,000, and 25,000. Lucknow also reported death cases of 6,700.
In Delhi, in the worst affected city, the PM2.5 reading peaked in November when it was 30 times above the World Health Organization’s safe limit, the study showed, in line with the Indian government’s air quality index reading at the time.
When it comes to Bengaluru, the study cites excessive vehicles to be the major reason behind the peaking air pollution. It has been estimated that the IT capital of India has 9.4 million vehicles in an area of 820 square kilometres.
Delhi’s annual PM2.5 average reading in 2020 was almost six times above the WHO’s safe limit, the report said.
Pollution also led to around 25,000 premature deaths in India’s financial hub Mumbai in 2020, according to the report.
"Despite a temporary reprieve in air quality owing to the lockdown, the latest figures from the report underscore the need to act immediately. The need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems," the study said.
Nevertheless, Greenpeace urged governments to put investment in renewable energy at the heart of plans to recover from the pandemic-triggered economic downturn.
"To really clean up our air, governments must stop building new coal plants, retire existing coal plants, and invest in clean energy generation, such as wind and solar," said the group's air pollution scientist Aidan Farrow.
Globally, approximate 160,000 deaths have been attributed to PM2.5 air pollution in the five most populous cities of Delhi (30 million), Mexico City (22 million), Sao Paulo (22 million), Shanghai (26 million) and Tokyo (37 million), it said.
( with inputs from agencies )