University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) has published its latest report about Air Quality Life Index on Tuesday. The report deduced that rising air pollution can cut life expectancy by more than five years per person in South Asia which is currently one of the most polluted places in the world.
Primary contributors in the region’s declining air quality are increasing industrialisation and population growth. The particulate pollution levels are resultantly more than 50 percent higher in comparison to the century’s start, posing a much greater health threat.
What does the report say about Pakistan?
According to the report, 98.3% of Pakistan’s population lives in areas exceeding the national air quality standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter.
From 1998 to 2021, average annual particulate pollution increased by 49.9% in Pakistan and reduced life expectancy by 1.5 years.
In Punjab, Islamabad, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 65.5 million citizens reside (69.5% of Pakistan’s population), with the country’s people potent set to lose between 3.7 to 4.6 years of life expectancy on average relative to the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline and between 2.7 to 3.6 years relative to the national standard if the current pollution levels persist.
Moreover, if Pakistan is able to meet WHO’s guideline, Karachi residents would gain 2.7 years of life expectancy whereas residents of Lahore would gain 7.5 years and people in Islamabad would gain about 4.5 years of life expectancy.
Pakistanis would gain 3.9 years by meeting the WHO guidelines of limiting average annual PM 2.5 concentration to 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
Others in South Asia
The study further expounds upon other countries in the region.
In light of the current pollution levels, Bangladeshis can lose 6.8 years of life on average per person compared to 3.6 months in the United States.
A Nepali would live 4.6 years longer by meeting the WHO guidelines of limiting average annual PM 2.5 concentration to 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
It is also highlighted that India is responsible for about 59 percent of the world’s increase in pollution since 2013, threatening to reduce lifespan in some of the country’s polluted regions.
The average lifespan in New Delhi, a heavily populated and the world’s most polluted megacity, is down by more than 10 years.
The report added that by reducing global levels of lung-damaging airborne particles, known as PM 2.5, to levels recommended by WHO could raise average life expectancy by 2.3 years.
China has put in work to reduce pollution by 42.3 percent between 2013 and 2021. The report suggested the governments generate accessible air quality data in order to help bridge global inequalities in accessing tools to combat pollution.