In Brief
  • India's air quality has become so poor that between 2010 to 2015, 1.1 million recorded deaths were due to air pollution.
  • China used to be the most air-polluted country, but steps they've taken to address the issue — including regulatory efforts — have started to curb the problem.

Bad Air Quality Can Be Fatal

Air pollution is already a serious problem in many parts of the world, and it’s set to get even worse with global warming. Due to climate change, temperatures are rising and creating more smog in cities. Smog in turn leads to air becoming stagnant, and in cities plagued with smog, this means the air quality actually becomes hazardous.

India has acquired the distinction of being the world’s most air-polluted country — beating China, who had held the title for a number of years. The country’s dangerous air quality is credited mainly to rapid industrialization, dependence on coal for power, population growth, and lack of regulation.

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It’s also taking lives: between 2010 to 2015, there have been 1.1 million recorded deaths due to air pollution. Based on the State of Global Air Report 2017 as reported by Quartz India, many of these deaths were due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — which resulted in a 150 percent increase in annual deaths. The air in India’s cities contains a deadly cocktail of dust, exhaust fumes, open fires, burnt crops, and factory emissions, which also lead to an uptick in other respiratory diseases, like bronchitis and emphysema.

Regulation Needed

Before this year, China has consistently been recognized as the most air-polluted country on the planet, based on the number of premature deaths it causes. However, recent efforts to limit use of coal, shift to renewables, improve air quality, and strengthen government regulation helped stabilize the country’s rising pollution levels.

Around the world, similar efforts are being undertaken to combat climate change. More countries are now focusing on expanding their renewable power sources, and governments are making a big push towards getting electric vehicles (EVs) on the road. Other, more non-traditional approaches include creating organizations that leverage on technology to address climate change, or looking towards innovative architecture to help improve air quality in urban areas.

Unfortunately, India has yet to implement nationwide air quality monitoring, regulations or initiatives that would help the country address the problem on a broader scale. That’s why they’ve found themselves atop an international ranking that countries are generally not eager to take first place in.