Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia

Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia

News: According to the World Bank’s ‘Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia’ report, 9 out of the world’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution are in South Asia.

Key Findings:
 The report quantifies particulate matter (PM) emissions and how they disperse in the atmosphere.
 Ambient air pollution is a public health crisis in South Asia, not only imposing high economic costs, but also causing an estimated 2 million premature deaths each year.
 In South Asia, nearly 60% of the population lives in areas where concentrations of 5 exceed an annual mean of 35 μg/m3 (WHO prescribes 5 μg/m3).
 In the densely populated Indo-Gangetic Plain, it is over 20 times higher than the WHOprescribed levels.
 This report identifies six major airsheds in South Asia where spatial interdependence in air quality is high.

Main causes of Air pollution in South Asia:
 Solid fuel combustion
 The current management practices of municipal waste in the region, include burning plastics.
 Generation of secondary PM in the form of ammonia (NH₃) emissions related to the agriculture sector.
 In the western part of South Asia, natural sources, such as dust, sea salt, and forest fires, are an important source of air pollution.

Way Forward
 Controlling ambient air pollution is difficult without a better understanding of the activities that emit PM and how emissions travel across locations.
 Interdependence in air quality within airsheds in South Asia is necessary when weighing alternative pathways for pollution control.
 Focusing on hotspots through regional cooperation would reduce mean exposure to 26 μg/m³. 

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