Indians willing to pay $220b to avoid pollution mortality

Last Updated 28 November 2017, 16:05 IST

India's estimated cost of health impact due to air pollution is a staggering $220 billion (Rs 1417k crore) - one of the highest in the world, said a new UN report.

In South and South-East Asia, India had the highest share of welfare costs from mortality of about $220 billion out of a combined total of $380 billion for the region (at 2015 prices), according to the report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

An economic concept, welfare cost is calculated on the basis of the money that citizens are willing to pay to avoid premature deaths due to air pollution.

The whopping figure of $220 billion for India suggests multiplicity of pollution throughout the country and its severity.

Last month, a study published in the Lancet medical journal showed that pollution killed 25 lakh Indians - the highest in the world - in 2015, out of which more than 18 lakh alone were wiped out by foul air alone. Most of these deaths are caused by heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), triggered by pollution.

Air pollution accounted for more than 18 lakh deaths whereas water pollution killed nearly 6.46 lakh Indians. Other forms of pollution, including passive smoking and exposure to lead, resulted in the death of another 1.68 lakh people in India in 2015.

The UNEP report is released during a global conference on the Minamata Convention, that addresses issues related to mercury pollution. It also comes ahead of the annual UN Environment Assembly, to be held in early December.

"Pollution is a universal challenge. The responsibility is on governments, businesses, cities and local authorities, civil society and individuals around the world to commit to act to beat pollution in all its forms," said UNEP executive director Erik Solheim.

Mortality costs from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise to nearly $25 trillion by 2060 in the absence of stringent anti-pollution measures.

At regional and national scale, China's welfare costs from mortality were the highest at nearly $1 trillion, followed by European OECD countries with a combined total of $730 billion. In Africa, welfare costs of premature deaths were estimated at over $450 billion representing 8% of the Gross Domestic Product, with a larger share attributed to indoor than outdoor air pollution.

(Published 28 November 2017, 15:48 IST)

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