India overtakes China in number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution in 2015

Greenpeace calls for National Clean Air Action Plan for India

Press release - November 16, 2016
New Delhi | In an alarming assessment by the Global Burden of Disease project, India has overtaken China in the number of deaths due to ambient (outdoor) air pollution, in 2015.

The study[2] showed continuous increase in the number of premature deaths in India since 1990. The recent data showed that in 2015, India witnessed 3,283 premature deaths per day, whereas China had 3,233 deaths. 

The GBD[1] substantiates Greenpeace India’s findings released earlier this year[3], which showed that for the first time this century, the average particulate matter exposure was higher for Indian citizens than that of the Chinese. “It clearly indicates that China’s strong measures to tackle pollution have contributed to the year-on-year air quality improvement on record, while in contrast, India’s pollution levels have increased over the past decade. This study must be taken seriously as this a testimony of deterioration of ambient air quality in India and immediate actions must be taken by the concerned authorities,” says Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India. 

Analysing it further, Dahiya said “Due to growing consumption of fossil fuels, the Chinese situation had been deteriorating. Between 2005 and 2011, the particulate pollution levels in China rose an estimated 20 percent. 2011 was the worst year on record for China in terms of ambient air pollution. However, there has been a dramatic improvement in China towards 2015, while India’s pollution levels have constantly moved upwards, making 2015 the worst year on record. If these increasing pollution trends are juxtaposed with the increasing number of deaths, we can clearly see that India, unlike China, has thus far not undertaken consistent efforts to bring down air pollution levels.”

India’s plans to ease timelines for implementing the notified emission standards for coal-fired power plants came as a rude shock. “There are sufficient scientific reports[4] to establish that thermal power plants are one of the key contributors to air pollution, yet the government seems comfortable ignoring public health and appeasing the polluters by easing the norms.” China adopted strict emission standards for thermal power plants in 2011, and a coordinated action plan in 2013, which led to the reduction in pollution levels, eventually halting the increase in air pollution deaths.

“Recently, UNICEF[5] has highlighted the premature deaths and long-term effects on children's development, caused by air pollution. Now the Global Burden of Disease data showing the rapid increase in health impacts is a clear message that India needs to adopt determined policies such as time-bound air quality targets under National/Regional Clean Air Action Plan and tougher enforcement of policies to cut down fossil fuel consumption, along with tackling other sectors responsible for higher air pollution levels, to turn the tide on air pollution,” concludes Dahiya.


1. A worldwide collaborative effort to measure the impact of health problems on people, GBD is coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. Data for the project are collected and analyzed by 1,870 collaborators from 124 countries and three territories. GBD uncovers the toll of early death and disability caused by more than 300 diseases and injuries in 195 countries and territories from 1990 to the present.
2. The study -
3. Clean Air Action Plan: The way forward - A report -,%20The%20way%20forward.pdf
4. Greenpeace report: Out of Sight:
5. UNICEF report:
For more information, please contact:
Madhulika Verma, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India, 9971137736 
Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India, 9013673250