Large swaths of India experience the worst air pollution in the world. In fact, out of the top 100 polluted districts globally, 90 of them are in India. The top 77 most polluted districts are all in India, with the first polluted district outside of India–number 78–being in Bangladesh. Since 2013, 59.1 percent of the world’s increase in pollution has come from India—with particulate pollution (PM2.5) on average more than 10 times the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline. India as a whole faces the greatest health burden from its air pollution compared to anywhere else due to the large number of people it affects. The average Indian resident is set to lose 5.3 years of life expectancy if the WHO guideline is not met.
The most polluted region of India is the Northern Plains, home to more than a half billion people and 38.9 percent of the country’s population. In this region, the average resident is on track to lose about 8 years of life expectancy if the pollution level persists. The region contains the capital city of Delhi, the most polluted megacity in the world with annual average particulate pollution of 126.5 µg/ m3 —more than 25 times the WHO guideline. However, particulate pollution is no longer just a feature of the Northern Plains of India. High levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over the last two decades. For example, in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, home to 204.2 million people, pollution has risen by 76.8 and 78.5 percent, respectively, since 2000. Here, the average person is now losing an additional 1.8 to 2.3 years of life expectancy, relative to what they would have lost if 2000 levels had persisted.