Air pollution in India, China up owing to fossil fuels: Greenpeace

New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Air pollution in India and China owing to continued use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, has caused an additional 1.6 million more deaths than the projected figure based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate for 2015, a report by Greenpeace India has found.

“Air pollution due to continued usage of fossil fuels denies both India and China the fruits of a flourishing economy,” a statement by Lauri Myllyvirta, Coal and Air Pollution Expert at Greenpeace, said.

“The report puts a big question mark on the quality of economic development that the two countries are offering their people. Usually, air pollution has an inverse relationship with the country’s GDP; we find that as countries become richer they generally develop less polluting industries.”

But in the case of India and China, says the report, the trend has been quite the opposite despite their economic growth, both countries have particularly poor air quality.

“It is clear that an economy heavily reliant on coal can only spell doom for its people.”

Explaining the arithmetic behind this alarming figure, it said: “For the year 2015, the per capita GDP of India and China was calculated to be $1,582 and $7,925. As per the global trend, this should have meant fewer deaths due to pollution as compared to countries with a lower per capita GDP.”

“But air pollution death rates in India and China have continued to climb. In 2015, pollution was expected to cause 94 deaths per 100,000 people in India, and 41 deaths per 100,000 people in China. But in reality the numbers are 138 and 115 deaths per 100,000 people in India and China, respectively,” said the report.

According to Global Burden of Diseases (GBD), the actual number of deaths in India were about 1.8 million and 1.5 million in China. The expected number of deaths based on GDP in India and China were calculated to be 1.2 million and 558,000 respectively.

This suggests that there are over one million more deaths a year in China and nearly 600,000 more deaths a year in India than there would be if the air pollution death rate in both countries was the average of other large middle-income countries with their level of GDP per capita.

Greenpeace says India’s performance is disappointing.

“Air pollution rates have fallen in China and India since 1990, but are still worse than in most similar countries. What’s more disconcerting for India is the fact that the rates have not improved since 2010,” Greenpeace India campaigner Sunil Dahiya said.