Air Pollution

India loses billions to air pollution: UN


                Mains Paper 3| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims: UNEP and its report ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’, Minamata Convention

Mains level: The news card talks about the recently released report by UNEP titled ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’ according to which India has the highest share of welfare costs in South and south-East Asia from mortality due to air pollution.




  • India had the highest share of welfare costs (or a loss of income from labour), of about $220 billion (about ₹1.4 trillion), in South and South-East Asia  of a combined total of $380 billion from mortality due to air pollution, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


  1. The report, ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’, was launched during the first Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, which addresses mercury issues, and ahead of the annual U.N. Environment Assembly, to be held in early December.

Key Takeaways from the Report

  1. The global mortality costs from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise to about $25 trillion by 2060 in the absence of more stringent measures.
  2. At regional and national scale, China’s welfare costs from mortality were the highest at nearly $1 trillion followed by the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) countries with a combined total of $730 billion, the report added quoting a 2016 projection by the OECD.
  3. Although certain forms of pollution have been reduced as technologies and management strategies have advanced, approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way societies use natural resources and impact the environment to support production and consumption.
  4. If consumption and production patterns continue as they are, the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ will seriously burden an already polluted planet, affecting current and future generations.

Way Forward

  1. To curb pollution in various forms, the UNEP called for strong high-level political commitment and engagement of the local government, civil society and other stakeholders.
  2. To achieve high level political commitment in key economic sectors, there is a need to go beyond the environmental ministries and include other relevant ministries such as finance, agriculture, industry, urban, transport, energy and health.
  3. Reporting on the progress that comes from acting on pollution whether through voluntary measures or formal laws is a crucial step in this transition.


Minamata Convention

  1. It is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
  2. The Convention was in 2013.
  3. The Convention is named after the Japanese city, Minimata.
  4. This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through devastating incident of mercury poisoning. 
  5. The convention has prohibited a myriad of products containing mercury, and their production and trade will be altogether prohibited by 2020.
  6. These products include batteries, compact fluorescent lamps, switches and relays, soaps and cosmetics, thermometers, and blood pressure devices.
  7. Furthermore, it has gone as far as prohibiting vaccines containing mercury, as well as dental fillings which use mercury amalgam.
  8. The biggest mercury release comes from coal-fired power stations and usage of mercury to separate gold from ore-bearing rock. Mercury from the factories is released into a river system.
  9. The Convention requires countries to come up with plans to reduce the amount of mercury used by gold miners.
  10. The treaty also organizes and support financially mercury awareness campaigns by which it gives support for mercury-free alternatives.


  1. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
  2. UNEP also has six regional offices and various country offices.
  3. The activities of UNEP cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy.
  4. It has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.



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