Respiratory ailments claimed 207 lives in smog-hit Delhi in 2016, third highest after UP, Bengal

Delhi witnessed its worst smog in 17 years in 2016. Fumes from stubble-burning regions, firecrackers burnt during Diwali.

delhi Updated: Dec 19, 2017 10:46 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times
delhi,delhi news,smog
Delhi witnessed its worst smog in 17 years in 2016. Fumes from stubble-burning regions, firecrackers burnt during Diwali.(Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

Acute respiratory infections (ARI) claimed the maximum number of lives in Delhi in 2016 – when the National Capital experienced its one of the worst pollution episodes in recent times – compared to previous years.

Delhi witnessed its worst smog in 17 years in 2016. Fumes from stubble-burning regions, firecrackers burnt during Diwali, local pollution from vehicles and unfavourable meteorological conditions had taken a heavy toll on Delhi’s air quality in November and December.

At least 207 people had died in Delhi in 2016 because of ARI. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, the number of deaths related to such infections were 175, 106 and 133, respectively.

Delhi’s is the third highest death toll in the country in 2016, after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. While 822 people died in UP, 635 died in West Bengal in the same year.

This data was submitted to Lok Sabha on Friday by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.

Earlier, a British Medical journal -- The Lancet -- had stated that more than half-a-million Indians were estimated to have died prematurely in 2015 due to high levels of PM 2.5, which can penetrate deep into the lungs, triggering a range of respiratory and cardiac ailments.

Union environment and forest minister Harsh Vardhan had, however, recently claimed that “ultimately these studies have to be India-centric. To attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much.”

The ministry told Parliament that even though cases of ARI across India shot up from 32.7 million in 2013 to 40.3 million in 2016, the number of deaths had not registered a consistent increase year on year in the same period.

Interestingly, the number of ARI cases in Delhi showed a decline from 3,90,170 in 2013 to 3,30,643 in 2105. In 2016, it, however, shot up to 3,51,072.

Central Pollution Control Board data shows that out of 273 cities across India where the country’s apex pollution control body monitors pollution levels, Delhi witnessed the second highest concentration of PM10 next only to Jharia, a town in Jharkhand, known for its choking fumes and dust coming out from coal mines.

While the annual concentration of PM10 in Jharia was 280ug/m3, Delhi was just two notches below at 278ug/m3. As far as PM2.5 levels are concerned, Delhi registered the second highest concentration after Chandigarh. The annual concentration of PM2.5 in Delhi was 118.

This means the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 were more than three times the annual safe standards of 60 and 40, respectively.

“Meteorological conditions along with human activities play a crucial role in determining the air quality of Delhi. It has also been seen that weather phenomenon across the international boundary, including dust storms in West Asia, also affect the city’s pollution levels,” said D Saha, head of the air quality laboratory at CPCB.

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 23:52 IST