The 'Know What You Breathe' report prepared by the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi and supported by the Patna-based Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED) revealed a massive spike in air pollution in Patna and Gaya.
‘Worsening air quality in Patna, Gaya, and Muzaffarpur is one of the reasons behind high premature mortality in these cities of Bihar.’
"An estimated 290-300 deaths per lakh population took place annually in Patna, Muzaffarpur, and Gaya due to pulmonary and heart diseases, strokes, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections," the report said.
The report studied the annual mean PM2.5 concentration in 11 cities of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand using satellite data of the past 17 years, which estimate premature mortality of 4,082 persons per year in the three cities of Bihar. PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers.
The study collated the air quality data with deaths due to air pollution-related diseases.
The report's data and findings related to the Bihar cities were released on Monday, underlining the urgency to take stringent steps to curb air pollution.
The report said that PM2.5 level in Patna, Gaya, and Muzaffarpur is 175 per cent to 200 per cent higher than the national limit and it is disproportionately increasing over the years.
In the last 17 years, the particulate matter pollution has increased to an average 23 Aug/m3, 13 Aug/m3 and 6 Aug/m3 in Patna, Gaya, and Muzaffarpur respectively.
With specific findings related to the sources of pollution and aerosol composition, the study indicated a higher percentage of sulphates, organic carbons, and black carbon, which are emitted primarily by anthropogenic sources.
CEED Programme Director Abhishek Pratap said: "Air pollution does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, but the poorest and the most marginalised sections bear the brunt of the health burden the most.
"The report is a grim reminder of the fact that air pollution is a public health crisis impacting the present as well as the future generations."
He emphasised that to prevent air pollution from causing more premature mortality, the government needed to put it high on its priority list.
The announcement of preparation of an Air Action Plan for Patna is a welcome step, he said.
Speaking on the action required for improved air quality, report author and Associate Professor Sagnik Dey of the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, IIT-Delhi, said that a critical factor in air quality management plan is to set targets in short-, medium- and long-terms of meeting air quality standards, along with a detailed implementation plan.
To improve the air quality in the region, we need to transit towards cleaner fuel for cooking on a priority basis, Dey said.