23.02.2021: Bad air killed 1.2 lakh across 6 Indian cities, cost the $17.7bn: Study

    Publish Date: February 23, 2021

    An estimated 1.2 lakh deaths attributed to air pollution have been reported across six big Indian cities in 2020, with the national capital leading the table followed by Mumbai and Bengaluru. Bad air is also estimated to have cost $17.7 billion in economic terms.

    These findings are according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir (a Swiss air quality technology company) data from a live Cost Estimator.

    “To show the impact of air pollution related deaths on the economy, the approach used by Greenpeace is called “willingness to-pay”, a lost life year or a year lived with disability is converted to money by the amount that people are willing to pay in order to avoid this negative outcome,” a statement issued here read.

    Estimated Air pollution impacts in major Indian cities (2020)

    Cities Estimated Deaths Estimated Costs
    Dehli 54,000 $8.1 billion
    Mumbai 25,000 $3.7 billion
    Bengluru 12,000 $1.7 billion
    Hyderabad 11,000 $1.6 billion
    Chennai 11,000 $1.5 billion
    Lucknow 6,700 $1.1 billion
    Total 1,19,700 $17.7 billion

    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, Greenpeace said, is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems.

    Of the 1.19 lakh deaths attributed to air pollution, 54,000 were in Delhi, followed by 25,000 in Mumbai. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Lucknow together lost 40,700 people to bad air. In economic terms too, Delhi topped the table having lost an estimated $8.1 billion, followed by Mumbai and Bengaluru, which lost $3.7 billion and $1.7 billion, respectively.

    “Despite recording relatively better air quality this year due to strict lockdown, air pollution continues to be a serious public health issue which also drastically impacts our economy. For the governments of the day, it is crucial that investments are made towards green and sustainable solutions,” Avinash Chanchal, Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace India, said.

    Chanchal added that when we choose fossil fuel over clean energy, our health is put at stake and that polluted air increases likelihood of deaths due to cancer and stroke, spike in asthma attacks and worsens severity of Covid-19 symptoms.

    Frank Hammes, CEO, IQAir, said: “Breathing should not be deadly. The fact that poor air quality claimed so many lives alone should give us pause, especially in a year when many cities were seeing lower air pollution levels due to less economic activity. Governments, corporations and individuals must do more to eliminate the sources of air pollution and make our cities better places to live.”

    Chanchal said it must be ensured that the growth demand is fueled by sustainable and cleaner sources of energy and cities should promote low cost, active and carbon-neutral transport options that prioritises walking, cycling, and public transport. “…An increased use of clean energy and clean transport will not only improve the public health but it will also strengthen the economy and public money,” Chanchal added.