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.