New Delhi :Delhi registered an alarming increase in deaths due to respiratory ailments in 2016, the year the national Capital witnessed its worst pollution crisis in at least two decades, according to data released by the state government on Saturday.
Deaths linked to breathing disorders shot up by 40% in 2016 from 2015 -- 6,502 to 9,149 -- the highest jump from the previous year since 2010. Incidentally, both 2016 and 2010 had seen a sharp rise in dust pollution, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board. Dust is a major cause of pulmonary and cardiac ailments.
From 2009 to 2010, the number of deaths linked to respiratory problems had gone up from 5,328 to 7,525 – an increase of 41%.
“This data proves that air pollution is taking a heavy toll on our health. We need stricter and sustained measures to bring down pollution levels,” said Anumita Roychoudhury, executive director (research and advocacy) at the Centre for Science and Environment.
In 2016, the annual average PM10 particulate level in Delhi shot up to 260ug/m3, more than two-and-a-half times the permissible limit of 100. The city was also engulfed in its worst smog in 17 years in November that year.
Data submitted in the Lok Sabha last week by the ministry of environment and forest had shown that Delhi accounts for the highest number of respiratory ailment deaths after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Earlier this year, British Medical journal The Lancet had published a report that more than half-a-million Indians were estimated to have died prematurely in 2015 due to high levels of the smallest PM 2.5 particles, which can penetrate deep into the lungs and trigger a range of respiratory and cardiac ailments.
Ironically, other statistics released by the government showed a sharp drop in diesel consumption between 2015-16 and 2016-2017 despite the fact that its vehicular fleet has shot up by 8%, crossing the 10-million mark. Experts attributed a fall in diesel consumption to various court rulings, which acted as a deterrent for buying such cars.
Diesel exhaust fumes are classified as more polluting than fumes released by vehicles that run on petrol.
The consumption of diesel dropped from around 1.5 milllion metric tonnes in 2015-16 to around 1.2 million metric tonnes in 2016-17, while the consumption of petrol went up marginally from .902 million metric tonnes to .906 million metric tonnes, the data showed.
“Various court rulings and directions by the National Green Tribunal have resulted in the drop in diesel vehicles. There is a ban on 10-year-old diesel operated vehicles in Delhi-NCR. Earlier the apex court had temporarily banned the sale of large diesel cars with an engine capacity of over 2000cc. These rulings have resulted in drop in diesel vehicles in Delhi,” said Kamal Soi, member of the National Road Safety Council.