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Air pollution gobbles up India's 7.9% GDP, leads to huge losses in welfare, income to people: World Bank

Counterview Desk
A top World Bank study has said that India suffered a gross domestic product (GDP) loss of US$ 505,103 or 7.69 percent of the GDP in 2013 as a result of pollution levels, up from US$ 104,906 or 6.80 percent of GDP in 1990. Calling it “welfare loss”, number of deaths during the period have due to air pollution has also gone up – from 1,043,182 in 1990 to 1,403,136 in 2013.
During the same period, the study finds, India’s pollution levels rose from 30.25 PM2.5 (ug/m3) to 46.68 PM2.5 (ug/m3), calculated as particulate matter or particulates, micrograms per cubic meter. These are microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the Earth's atmosphere.
In 2013, among other BRICS countries, the study finds, Brazil suffered a loss of US$ 82,612 (or 2.66 percent of GDP), Russia US$ 279,801 (or 8.28 percent of GDP), China US$ 1,589,767 (or 9.92 percent of GDP), and South Africa US$ 20,656 (or 3.12 percent of GDP). GDP losses are calculated by taking into account such factors like labour income losses and mortality costs.
Titled “The Cost of Air Pollution” Strengthening the Economic Case for Action”, and prepared in association with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation University of Washington, Seattle, the report states, “In 2013 exposure to ambient and household air pollution cost the world’s economy some $5.11 trillion in welfare losses.”
The study says, “In 2013 welfare losses in low- and middle-income countries accounted for 59 percent of the global total. Higher overall exposure, risks, and losses among middle-income countries are driven in large part by trends in India and China.” It adds, “From 1990 to 2013, welfare losses increased for countries at all income levels other than the OECD countries, which saw a small decline.”
GNI: Gross National Income
“These losses increased by 130 percent and 133 percent for lower- and upper-middle-income countries, respectively, excluding India and China, which saw even greater increases”, the study says, adding, “The countries that experienced the greatest increases in welfare losses from ambient air pollution include many of the fastest-growing, fastest-urbanizing ones.”
While saying that “overall, per capita welfare losses declined for more than half of all countries” the study adds, “South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific were the only two regions in which average losses from household air pollution increased, stemming mainly from the higher per capita losses in China and India.”
Providing estimates of welfare losses in dollar terms, the study says, in 2013 these were pretty high in China (10.9 percent), Sri Lanka (7.5 percent), and India (7.0 percent). However, it adds, welfare losses have declined the most in western and northern Europe, including in Norway (4.5 percent), Sweden (3.3 percent), Denmark (3.1 percent), Finland (2.6 percent), and the United Kingdom (2.5 percent).
The study regrets, 35 percent of the global population resided in areas with concentrations above the WHO norm of an annual average, adding, “The most extreme concentrations experienced by populations in China and India.”
Worse it says, “Since the 1990s, exposure to ambient air pollution has grown in most countries (other than high-income countries), with some of the greatest increases in the heavily populated, fastest-growing regions, including South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific.”

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