India's deepening pollution problem, which hit home with a vengeance after Diwali last year as Delhi and NCR woke up enveloped in smog that refused to lift for days, has a death toll second only to China's, and together the two nations account for over half the world's deaths from pollution.

According to the State of Global Air 2017 report, released in Boston on Tuesday, as many as 2.54 lakh deaths occurred in 2015 on account of exposure to ozone and its impact on chronic lung disease.

India accounts for the highest number of premature deaths due to ozone pollution, its toll 13 times higher than Bangladesh's, and 21 times higher than Pakistan's.

An interactive website on the report also highlights that 92% of the world's population lives in areas with unhealthy air . "We are seeing increasing air pollution problems worldwide, and this new report and website details why that air pollution is a major contributor to early death," said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute HEI), the research institute that designed and carried out the study. He said, "The trends we report show that we have seen progress in some parts of the world, but serious challenges remain".

The report was prepared by HEI in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia.

Referring to the findings of the report, Anumita Roychowdhury of the Centre for Science and Environment, said, "India can't afford to remain complacent or in denial. With so many people dying early and falling ill... due to particulate and ozone pollution, it is a state of health emergency. This demands nationwide intervention to ensure stringent mitigation and a roadmap to meet clean air standards".

Source: February 15, 2017, The Times of India