fbpx The Solvable Challenge of Air Pollution in India | Harvard Kennedy School


The costs of air and water pollution in India are extraordinarily high. Consequently, the deterioration of environmental quality is likely to significantly hinder economic growth. Recent research has helped us grasp the magnitude of the problem. Greenstone et al (2015) used a combination of ground-level isn-situ measurements and satellite-based remote sensing data, and estimated that about 660 million Indians live in areas that exceed the Indian National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution. The authors estimate that achieving India's own standards could increase life expectancy for urban residents by 3.17 years on average. In a similar vein, the Global Burden of Disease report estimated that ambient particulate matter air pollution accounts for 6% of global deaths and that over 10 percent of premature deaths owe to lower respiratory diseases. To put this in perspective, this is higher than deaths due to tuberculosis and malaria combined (Lim et al. 2012). With regards water pollution, India is estimated to have the worst access to safe drinking water of any country in the world (WaterAid 2016) with over 100 million people living in areas without safe drinking water. Research also shows that river water pollution has a causal impact on diarrhea deaths (Do 2014).


Greenstone, Michael, Santosh Harish, Rohini Pande, and Anant Sudarshan. "The Solvable Challenge of Air Pollution in India." India Policy Forum 2017, July 2017.