THE COST OF AIR POLLUTION - STRENGTHENING THE ECONOMIC CASE FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Air Pollution is emerging as one of the major threat to modern civilisation and the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide. This pollution had both hampered economic development and caused human suffering.

According to the study on “The Cost of Air Pollution - Strengthening the Economic Case for Action”, these deaths cost the global economy around $225 billion in "lost labour” in 2013. The study was jointly conducted by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). This is equivalent to about $5.11 trillion in welfare losses worldwide. It was an estimated 5.5 million people died as a result of diseases "associated with outdoor and household air pollution" in 2013.

Four factors played a role in the upward trend in the number of APM (Ambient PM2.5) deaths, including increases in PM2.5 exposure in a number of countries with very large populations (China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan), population growth, population aging, and changes in the prevalence of diseases affected by air pollution. While pollution-related deaths strike mainly young children and the elderly, premature deaths also result in lost labour income for working-age men and women.

Air pollution has greater impact on developing countries like India, as

  • 1.4 million People lost their life owing to air pollution
  • US$ 505 billion towards welfare losses
  • US$ 55.4 billion towards lost labour

It is important to note that Adding welfare costs and costs of lost labour due to air pollution puts India’s GDP loss at more than 8.5% in 2013. The study also highlighted that the impact of APM deaths for the countries with lower per capita.

Ambient PM2.5 Death Rate versus Income per Capita, 2013

Transport is one of the key contributors for Air pollution in developing countries, including India. According to “Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases (GHGs) in Delhi”, transport is the second largest source and most consistently contributing source to PM10 and PM2.5 in winters.

This above case clearly shows that investment in cleaner and sustainable transport will bring economic benefits for the country. The following are some of the measures to improve the environment:

- Improvement in public transport

- Implementation of BS VI

- Introduction of electric and hybrid vehicles

- Traffic planning and restriction of movement of vehicles

- Retro-fitment in diesel exhaust