New Delhi, Sep 1: India's air pollution levels have expanded geographically over time and increased so much in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh that an average person is now losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, according to a new report.

India is the most polluted country in the world, with more than 480 million people or about 40 per cent of its population living in the Indo-Gangetic plains in the north where pollution levels regularly exceed those found anywhere else in the world by an order of magnitude, stated the University of Chicago's Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) report.

The study by the varsity's Energy Policy Institute ascertains how much longer a person can live if they breathe clean air.

Residents of northern India are on track to lose more than nine years of life expectancy if pollution levels of that of 2019 persist as the region experiences the most extreme levels of air pollution in the world, it said.

In 2019, India's average particulate matter concentration was 70.3 microgram per cubic meter ( g/m3 ), the highest in the world and seven times the World Health Organisation's guideline of 10 g/m3, the report said.

It said that alarmingly India's high levels of air pollution have expanded geographically over time.

"Compared to a couple of decades ago, particulate pollution is no longer a feature of the Indo-Gangetic plains alone. Pollution has increased so much in the states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. For example, the average person in those states is now losing an additional 2.5 to 2.9 years of life expectancy, relative to early 2000," the report said.

For Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, the AQLI data reveals that the average person would live 5.6 years longer if pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guidelines, it said.

"Due to South Asia's high population and pollution concentrations, the region accounts for 58 per cent of total life years lost due to particulate pollution exceeding the WHO guideline," it said.

The benefits of clean air policy are even greater in the Indo-Gangetic plains, where 480 million people regularly breathe pollution levels that exceed those found in Europe and North America by an order of magnitude, the report said.

Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan account for nearly a quarter of the global population and consistently rank among the top five most polluted countries in the world, it said.

As a result, South Asia accounts for 60 per cent of the person-years that are expected to be lost globally due to pollution levels exceeding the WHO guideline, the University of Chicago's report said.

"Average life expectancy across these four countries would be 5.6 years higher if pollution concentrations complied with the WHO guideline," it said.

In India and Pakistan, the number of vehicles on the road has increased about four-fold since the early 2000s while in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan combined, electricity generation from fossil fuels tripled from 1998 to 2017, the report said.

Crop burning, brick kilns, and other industrial activities have also contributed to rising particulates in the region, it said.

The AQLI, the report said, particulate pollution is the world's greatest threat to human health.

"South Asia is consistently the most polluted region, with the people there seeing their lives shortened by an average of 5 years relative to what it would be if the region met the WHO guideline and even more in the most polluted parts of the region like northern India," the report said.

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Kolkata, May 23: Alleging that the Union government was using central agencies to interfere in matters of the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday stated that the BJP-led dispensation was "bulldozing the country's federal structure".

Condemning the Centre's "attempts to interfere", she said that the "situation under the BJP-led government was more adverse than what it was under dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Benito Mussolini".

She also said that central agencies "should be given autonomy" if democracy was to be protected.

"The BJP-led central government is using the central agencies to interfere into the state affairs. It is bulldozing the federal structure of the country. There is a Tughlaqi rule in force," she maintained, addressing a press conference at the state secretariat.

Banerjee, without taking names, said that the "agencies cannot work because there is no autonomy. The autonomy lay in the hands of two persons and the BJP. Such political interference was not prevalent during the time of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Benito Mussolini".

Notably, the Bengal CM had long been accusing the BJP government at the Centre of using central agencies like the CBI, the ED to "harass" opponents, including those from her party.

The CBI is looking into a series of cases in Bengal involving violence, rape and smuggling, notable among them being incidents of post-poll violence after last year's assembly polls.

"I want the central government agencies to be given autonomy so that they can work impartially. There should not be any political vendetta. Let the government provide the agency employees with salary and nothing else. I am the first person to raise the issue... this has to be done if we want to save democracy in India," she insisted.

The CM, during the meeting, also criticised the alleged move by the Bihar Police to demolish huts in Malda on Friday.

"A team of police came from Bihar and demolished huts in bordering areas of Malda. You should have informed Bengal Police? What's happening in the country?"

The Bihar Police allegedly demolished nine huts in West Bengal's Malda district along the inter-state boundary and assaulted several residents, including women, when they protested the drive, officials have said.