According to a new study released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC). India is among the most polluted countries in the world, with approximately 480 million people or about 40 % of its populous living in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north where pollution levels frequently exceeds those found anywhere else in the world by a greater margin, stated the University of Chicago's Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report.

The study by the varsity’s Energy Policy Institute further discloses a steady increase in life’s duration of a person based on the degree of clean air they inhale.

People residing in northern India are more likely to lose greater than nine years of lifetime, if pollution levels of that of 2019 continues to persist, as the region experiences the most extreme levels of air pollution in the world, the report stated.

In 2019, India’s average particulate matter (PM) concentration was 70.3 microgram per cubic metre (μg/m3), the highest in the world and seven times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) guideline of 10 μg/m3, indicates the report.

The study further mentions that India’s high levels of air pollution has radically expanded geographically over time.

“Compared to a couple of decades ago, particulate pollution is no longer a feature of the Indo-Gangetic plains alone. Pollution has increased so much in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. For example, the average person in those states is now losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, relative to early 2000,” the report said.

The study reports that for Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, the average life expectancy of a person can be increased to 5.6 years longer provided pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guidelines.

“Due to South Asia’s high population and pollution concentrations, the region accounts for 58% of total life years lost due to particulate pollution exceeding the WHO guideline,” it said.

The report has cited the root of the cause to be in case of India and Pakistan, the number of vehicles on the road has increased about four-fold since the early 2000s while in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan combined, electricity generation from fossil fuels tripled from 1998 to 2017. Also, crop burning, brick kilns, and other industrial activities have also contributed to rising particulates in the region.

As per the AQLI, the report said, particulate pollution is a key hazard that contributes to the deterioration of human health.

“South Asia is consistently the most polluted region, with the people there seeing their lives shortened by an average of 5 years relative to what it would be if the region met the WHO guideline—and even more in the most polluted parts of the region like northern India,” the report said.