Air pollution caused nearly 54,000 avoidable deaths in Delhi in 2020, reveals Greenpeace analysis

February 19, 2021 | Updated 11:12 am

Air pollution caused nearly 54,000 avoidable deaths in Delhi in 2020, reveals Greenpeace analysis Representational Images (Picture credit: Greenpeace)

The air pollution caused as many as 54,000 avoidable deaths in India’s capital city in 2020, along with a staggering economic loss of US$1.8 billion dollars which is over 10 percent of Delhi’s annual GDP, according to the new analysis of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Both have quantified the global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels which amounted to a staggering US$8 billion per day, which amounts to roughly US$2.9 trillion worth of economic losses or 3.3 percent of the world’s GDP. Air pollution generated from burning fossil fuels is attributed to approximately 4.5 million premature deaths worldwide every year, the report shows.

Out of this China Mainland, the United States and India bear the highest costs from fossil fuel air pollution worldwide, at an estimated US$900 billion, US$600 billion and US$150 billion per year, respectively. In 2020, PM2.5 air pollution was responsible for the loss of an estimated 160,000 lives in the world’s five most populous cities in which the National capital Delhi tops the list. Other 5 cities like–Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow also feature in this global analysis.

Delhi sustained an estimated 54,000 avoidable deaths due to PM2.5 air pollution in 2020, or one death per 500 people. Jakarta suffered an estimated 13,000 avoidable deaths due to PM2.5 air pollution in 2020 and sustained air pollution-related losses of USD 3.4 billion, equivalent to 8.2 per cent of the city’s total GDP.

“Governments must halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants and retire existing plants, invest in public transport systems, and transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible. Around the world people are demanding clean air, and governments must take action,” said Bondan Andriyanu, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution is linked to nearly 7 million deaths worldwide every year. The toxic and polluted air that we breathe increases our risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma and affects nearly every organ in our bodies.

“We need clean energy and transport, both for our health and our economies. As governments look to rebuild amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they must ensure that we build back in a way that is good for the economy and safe for our lungs,” the report adds. It says that investment in clean air programs can yield returns of 30 times or higher. In addition, accessible, clean energy-powered public transport systems not only bring health savings due to reduced smog, but also increase mobility.