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UPSC Essentials: Data on your tips – Lancet Report on pollution and health

What does the Lancet Planetary Health Report say about pollution, death, GDP and India's policies? UPSC aspirants must have knowledge of some very essential data from this report and its analysis.

Written by Manas Srivastava | New Delhi I |
Updated: May 24, 2022 4:18:47 pm
Essential data, facts and figures from reports and important documents for UPSC-CSE. (Representative image)

Essential data, facts and figures from reports and important documents for UPSC-CSE.

Syllabus: Prelims- General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization

Mains- GS III-  Environmental pollution and degradation 

The Lancet Commission on pollution and health reported that pollution was responsible for 9 million premature deaths in 2015. The Lancet Planetary Health Report- “Pollution and health: A progress update”  have now updated this estimate using data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2019.             

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1 Why is the Lancet Planetary Health Report alarming for India?

The Lancet Planetary Health Report is alarming for India because India topped the air pollution death toll in 2019.

2 What are the factors responsible for the increase in deaths from the more modern forms of air pollution?

The factors responsible for this increase in death due to modern forms of air pollution include rising ambient air pollution, rising chemical pollution, ageing populations and increased numbers of people exposed to pollution.

(Point to ponder: What are the traditional and modern forms of  pollution?)

3 How many deaths were caused by air pollution in India?

Air pollution was responsible for 16.7 lakh deaths in 2019 or 17.8% of all deaths in India (2019).

4 How many deaths were caused by air pollution globally?

Globally, air pollution alone contributes to 66.7 lakh deaths, according to the report, which updates a previous analysis from 2015.

5 How many deaths were caused by pollution globally?

1) Overall, pollution was responsible for an estimated 90 lakh deaths in 2019 (equivalent to one in six deaths worldwide), a number that has remained unchanged since the 2015 analysis.

2) Globally, air pollution – both ambient and household – was responsible for 6.7 million deaths in 2019.

3) Water pollution was responsible for 1.4 million deaths and lead pollution caused 900,000 premature deaths.

6 What are the different components of air pollution causing death?

1) Ambient air pollution was responsible for 45 lakh deaths, and hazardous chemical pollutants for 17 lakh, with 9 lakh deaths attributable to lead pollution.

2) The majority of the 16.7 lakh air pollution-related deaths in India – 9.8 lakh — were caused by PM2.5 pollution and another 6.1 lakh by household air pollution.

Note: The number of deaths from pollution sources associated with extreme poverty (such as indoor air pollution and water pollution) has decreased. But these reductions are offset by increased deaths attributable to industrial pollution (such as ambient air pollution and chemical pollution)

7 What does the report say about traditional pollution and GDP?

The report says that in 2000, losses due to traditional pollution were 3.2% of India’s GDP. Since then, death rates caused by traditional pollution have fallen and economic losses have reduced substantially, but these are still around 1% of India’s GDP. 

8 What does the report say about traditional pollution and GDP?

Between 2000 and 2019, economic losses caused by modern forms of pollution – ambient, chemical, and lead pollution – have increased and are now “conservatively estimated to amount to approximately 1% of GDP” in India. The study found that more than 90% of pollution-related deaths occurred in low-income and middle-income countries, with India topping the list with 2.36 million and China at number two with 2.1 million deaths.

9 What does the report say about the pollution in India despite the Indian Government’s efforts?

About India, the Lancet report says that in 93 percent of India, the amount of pollution remains well above the WHO guidelines. It says that in 2019, India had the largest estimated number of pollution-related deaths, even though some effort has been made to deal with it through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana program. India has developed a National Clean Air Program, and in 2019 launched a Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region. Unfortunately, according to the report, India does not have a strong centralized administrative system to drive its air pollution control efforts and consequently, improvements in overall air quality have been limited and uneven.

Note 1: The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana program was launched by the Narendra Modi Government in 2016 and is aimed at making LPG connections available to rural households.

Note 2: A 2019 study published by the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre noted that the single greatest contributor to air pollution in India was the burning of solid fuels in households.

Beyond the Lancet Report

10 What is the cost of fossil fuel air pollution?

The global cost of fossil fuel air pollution is estimated to be about US $8 billion per day.

11 What does the World Air Quality Report 2021 say about air pollution in India?

Greenpeace’s World Air Quality Report 2021, noted New Delhi as the most polluted capital in the world, in terms of PM 2.5. PM 2.5, one of the principal pollutants in Northern Indian cities including Delhi, is estimated to cause over 3,000,000 premature deaths. The report mentions that in 2021, Central and South Asia had some of the world’s worst air quality and were home to 46 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities.

 12 What does UNEP say about air quality-related deaths?

According to the United Nations Environment Program, 70 percent of global air quality-related deaths occur in Central and South Asia. In fact, except in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, PM2.5 concentrations increased in Central and South Asian countries in 2021, which negated the quarantine-related improvements in the air quality.

Point to ponder: What does The Lancet Planetary Health Report- ” Pollution and health: A progress update” say about lead pollution? What is the impact of lead pollution?


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