One-fourth of air pollution related deaths in Asia takes place in the country, the latest Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) has said, causing grave concern among environmentalists.
The GBD, anchored by World Health Organisation, tracks deaths and illnesses from all causes across the world and in South Asia it ranks air pollution as the sixth most dangerous killer. It is now three places behind indoor air pollution, which is the second highest killer in this region, the report said.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment said this GBD count on air pollution and its health risks must trigger urgent, aggressive and most stringent action in India to curb air pollution to protect public health.
"India cannot afford to enhance health risk at a time when much of its economic growth and motorization are yet to happen," she said, asking the government to take urgent steps to reduce health burden because of rising air pollution.
Pollution watchdog's the Central Pollution Control Board's data shows that more than 90 % of Indian cities have air pollution above the national standard and studies have indicated how it was affecting health of residents.
The cause of rising air pollution in most cities has been increasing vehicular traffic with very less effort to augment public transport to provide residents an alternative to personal transport.
The study has ranked air pollution just below blood pressure, tobacco smoking, indoor air pollution and poor intake of fruits and diabetes as a cause for death in South Asia. Outdoor air pollution causes 3.2 million deaths worldwide and it has increased by three times since the last count in 2000 by GBD.
The new estimates of particulate air pollution are based on ground-level measurements, satellite remote sensing and global chemical transport models to capture population exposure and related health impact.
The CSE has sought seven pronged approach to deal with air polluting making national standards binding for all regions and have an effective fuel quality and vehicle technology roadmap. It also wants restriction on explosive increase in vehicle numbers and ensuring proper public transport planning in cities.