At a staggering 2.51 million deaths, India is the country with the most pollution-related premature deaths in the world. This is three times more than HIV-Aids, TB and Malaria- related deaths put together. In 2015, India accounted for 28% of the 9 million pollution-related deaths worldwide.
Of the 2.51 million deaths in India, 1.81 million were related to air pollution, 0.64 million to water pollution, 0.17 million to occupational exposure and 95,000 to lead pollution.
Pollution and health problems
Exposure to high levels of air pollution, especially over a number of years, can affect human respiratory and inflammatory systems and can lead to problems such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Even if you are totally healthy, pollution can cause you to have temporary health problems such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
The people who are most susceptible to pollution are those who are pregnant, the elderly, and people who work outdoors who are therefore immersed in it more frequently. For example, construction workers in New Delhi are exposed to very high levels of pollution and are less able to protect themselves from exposure because they walk, take their bike or ride the bus to workplaces that might also be polluted.
Why does India have such bad pollution?
India burns a lot of coal and biomass in order to provide utilities such as heating. The country is not rich enough to afford cleaner energy and therefore relies solely on these two. That means India are burning enough biomass and coal to support 750 million people, and therefore it is no surprise that India is struggling to deal with pollution! The problem is so severe that medical professionals are being trained to respond to air pollution emergencies to try and help as many people as possible who are affected by pollution.
Cars are also having a big effect on pollution in India. The roads are covered in dirt and most of the vehicles used for public transport are diesel fueled buses. When these buses hit the dirt on the side of the road, pollution is a natural result.
How this is being improved
India has been massively investing in solar power over the last few years and they are aiming to use it as their main source of energy in the near future. Although realistically this will take a while, the investment is already having an impact because now the price of solar is well below the price of coal, thus making it the more desirable option.
The process of switching from polluting fuels to cleaner alternatives always takes time. However, with any luck the number of pollution related illnesses and deaths will start to decrease soon. This will hopefully allow India to move forward into a happier and healthier future.