7 April World health day: 13 million deaths around the world each year due to environmental causes


World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April. The theme of this day is ‘Our Planet, Our Health’. WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are due to avoidable environmental causes. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. India is among the top five countries that is most vulnerable to climate change and air pollution. India has the world's worst air pollution. India's toxic air kills more than one million people each year. According to World Air Quality Report 2021, 63 Indian cities are among the 100 most polluted places on Earth. Air pollution is the second biggest factor affecting human health in India and its economic cost is estimated to exceed USD 150 billion annually. The World Air Quality Report 2022 has found that India's PM 2.5 level returned to pre-COVID lockdown concentrations measured in 2019. According to ‘Greenpeace Southeast Asia’, “The smoggy air cloaking India's cities often contains dangerously high levels of fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5. These pollutants have been linked to lung and heart disease, and are known to impair cognitive functions and the immune system. PM2.5 air pollution caused around 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in 2020.” Several studies now suggest that persistently high levels of air pollution may have significantly increased deaths from Covid-19. More than 90% of India’s population lives in areas where air quality is below World Health Organization standards, with coal-fired power plants, factories and vehicles among the major sources of pollution. Prime Minister Modi’s government has previously faced criticism for extending deadlines for power plants to enforce pollution standards, and hasn’t yet set any date to reduce consumption of coal, which produces 70% of the country’s electricity. If India not devised a policy to keep environment clean, then whole South Asian countries would have to face the drastic changes in their environment affecting health of the people living in the region.