India registers more air pollution deaths per year than any other country

17.8% of all fatalities on the subcontinent in 2019 are attributed to a toxic atmosphere, according to new report. 

A leading medical journal has published an analysis of deaths tied directly to air pollution, revealing that more lives have been lost in India as a result of poor air quality than any other country. 

The Lancet Planetary Health report was recently made available, and shows 17.8% of all fatalities in India in 2019 can be attributed to the polluted air. Overall, around 1.7m people died in the country as a result of its toxic atmosphere, roughly 1/6 of total air pollution deaths across the globe that year. Burning of biomass in households was the largest contributor, followed by coal combustion and crop burning. 

Although the burning of biomass in households was the largest contributor to the air pollution problem, followed by coal combustion and crop burning, the report notes the number of fatalities directly linked to pollution sources associated with extreme poverty has fallen, but this is offset by a rise in deaths resulting from industrial pollution. It also identifies the Indo-Gangetic Plain as the region with the most severe air pollution in India, which includes the capital, New Delhi, and several other major cities including Kolkata. The Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and Pakistan’s second largest metropolis, Lahore, are also in this area. 

Already 2022 has seen record heat waves hit India, with April seeing temperatures reach highs of almost 38C. Wildfires have caused huge problems, with 277 large blazes registered in a single week in spring, further contributing to an already significant air pollution problem. In February, the UN issued a warning of a 50% increase in wildfires before the end of the century, raising further alarm bells about the spiralling climate crisis. 


Image credit: Rupinder Singh


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