The bad quality of air, which leads to acute respiratory ailments, was the biggest cause of deaths due to diseases in 2011, a government study released on Tuesday said.
The Statistical Handbook of India 2013 says 2,429 people died owing to respiratory diseases in 2011, much more than the deaths caused by water-borne diseases and Japanese encephalitis. However, deaths due to other diseases such as heart ailments and cancer have not been counted.
But, other international studies have also cited rising population as an increasing cause of deaths in India.
The global burden of disease (GBD) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) released in December says air pollution is the sixth most dangerous killer in south Asia. “Around 65% of the air pollution deaths occur in Asia and close to quarter of this happen in India,” the report says.
The government study had confirmed the findings, saying 2.63 crore people in India suffer from acute respiratory disease, the causes of which are indoor pollution and rising air pollution levels.
A study by Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on the impact of indoor air pollution has estimated that 51,660-84,731 post-neonatal deaths occur in the country every year, which is 27.5% of the total such deaths.
The TERI said the deaths are avoidable, if the biomass fuels are replaced by safe fuels and amount of smoke generated is reduced.
The Central Pollution Control Board data for 2010 shows that air pollution has risen in all 257 cities and towns where air quality is monitored.
In Indian cities, except 10, the air quality was reported to be above the national ambient air quality standards.
Although the data is minimal indication, the report said maximum number of respiratory-related deaths took place in West Bengal followed by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
However, many states such as Bihar, Assam and Chandigarh did not record deaths under this category.