NEW DELHI: Indians would live for about four years longer on an average if the country meets the WHO's air quality standards, according to a new study.
Noting that ambient air pollution alone may cost India more than USD 500 billion per year, it said it is causing hundreds of millions of people in the country to lead shorter and sicker lives.
A group of researchers have proposed a slew of measures to overcome the issue that includes applying monetary charges on excess emissions.
Indians would be able to live for about four years longer on an average if the country meets the WHO's air quality standards, the study said.
Under the World Health Organisation quality standards, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) should be 10 g/m3 annual mean and 25 g/m3 24-hour mean while the coarse particulate matter (PM10) 20 g/m3 annual mean and 50 g/m3 24-hour mean.
To help improve India's air quality, researchers from the University of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy School have laid out five key evidence-based policy recommendations in a new report titled 'A Roadmap Towards Cleaning India's Air', the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago said in a statement.
Moreover, if India were to meet the WHO's air quality standards, its people would live about four years longer on an average. The economic costs of pollution, through its impact on health care expenditures and workforce productivity, will be significant, it said.
The study noted more than 660 million Indians live in areas that exceed the country's standard for what is considered safe exposure to fine particulate matter(PM2.5).
For Delhi, the results of the odd-even scheme suggest driving restrictions may be most effective as emergency measures during the worst periods which is winter.
"The analysis found evidence of a 13 per cent reduction in PM2.5 concentrations during the January round. The effect was particularly large between 11 am and 2 pm, perhaps due to a reduction in traffic during the morning peak hours. In contrast, the analysis found no evidence of an effect during the April round. The absence of an April effect may have been due to greater dispersion caused by warmer temperatures," the study said.
It recommended improving emissions monitoring by better aligning incentives of auditors, providing regulators with real-time data on polluters' emissions, applying monetary charges for excess emissions, providing the public with information about polluters, and using markets to reduce abatement costs and pollution, according to the study.
"While the economic costs of pollution are high and there is no easy solution, we remain optimistic because of the incredible innovations currently being experimented with throughout India," Rohini Pande, a professor in Rafik Hariri University and co-director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School, was quoted in the statement.