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More deadly than epidemic: Air pollution kills lakhs in eight cities, more than 13 lakh deaths

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It is estimated that 13 lakh people died prematurely between 2005 and 2018 due to air pollution in Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai, Surat, Pune and Ahmedabad. Air pollution in these cities is proving to be more deadly than the Kovid epidemic. A team of scientists studied air quality between 2005 and 2018 in 46 cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East using space-based observations from NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) satellites. The study was recently published in Science Advanced.

The study estimated that in 2005 there were 39,200 deaths in Kolkata, 10,500 in Ahmedabad, 5,800 in Surat, 30,400 in Mumbai, 7,400 in Pune, 9,500 in Bengaluru, 11,200 in Chennai and 9,900 in Hyderabad. After this, with the increasing population, in 2018, Kolkata 54,000, Ahmedabad 18,400, Surat 15,000, Mumbai 48,300, Pune 15,500, Bengaluru 21,000, Chennai 20,800 and Hyderabad 23,700 people are estimated to have died. Between 2005 and 2018, more than 1.3 million people died every year due to pollution in these eight cities.

PM 2.5 Pollutants Are Life’s Biggest Enemies
Several studies have shown that nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (PM 2.5), ammonia and reactive volatile organic compounds cause many diseases and premature death, says Vohra.

Monitoring Network Policies Unhelpful
Researchers have found that India has an extensive network for monitoring air pollution, but it is not properly used in policy.

Pollution casts shadow on future of mega-cities in the year 2100
Karan Vohra, the study’s lead author and a research fellow at University College London, said the aim of the study was to evaluate the fastest growing cities in the tropics that could become megacities by the year 2100. Eight of these cities of the world are in India. By far, the most common cause of open burning of biomass (agricultural waste) is in the tropics.

But, the analysis shows, a new dreadful era of air pollution is beginning in these cities. The severe exposure to air pollution for the population of these cities has resulted in an increase of 1.5 to 4-fold in terms of nitrogen dioxide in 40 out of 46 cities and PM-2.5 in 33 cities. This is actually due to the thriving industries, roads, traffic, urban waste and extensive use of polluted fuel wood.

City air is the most dangerous
PM2.5 in the country may have killed 1,23,900 people in 2005, which will increase to 2,23,200 in 2018. Studies show that there is a sharp decline in air quality and an increase in urban exposure to air pollutants, which is extremely hazardous to health.

The researchers found that the annual increase of 14% in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 8% in particulate matter (PM-2.5) is worrying. In addition, ammonia levels increased by 12% and the response to volatile organic compounds increased by 11%.

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