People living in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan could see their lives cut short by five years on average, after being exposed to air pollution levels that are now 44 percent higher than they were two decades ago.
The report titled Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) published on Tuesday at virtual programme says high pollution throughout Bangladesh makes it the most polluted country in the world.
The most severe pollution, however, is found in parts of India, especially northern India, including the megacities of Delhi and Kolkata.
Particulate pollution is also a significant concern for Southeast Asia where traditional pollution sources such as vehicles, power plants and industries coupled with forest and cropland fires produce deadly concentrations.
"As a result, 89 percent of Southeast Asia's 650-million people live in areas where particulate pollution exceeds the WHO guideline. Growing metropolises – such as Jakarta, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok – bear the greatest burden," the report finds.
In a post-report launching discussion, experts on public health, law and policy from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan opined that, without a strong and sustained public policy, air pollution would affect the human civilisation after the Covid-19.
They talked about what a healthy recovery entails for their countries and region and why it is necessary, desirable and achievable.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh Supreme Court advocate and chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said the stand of Bangladesh on development is like China and other countries.
"Because of reckless and unregulated investment, we are losing sustainability of the development," she said.
Syeda Hasan also said, "The reality is no shot in the arm will alleviate air pollution. The solution lies in a robust public policy. The AQLI tells citizens and policymakers about how particulate pollution is affecting them and their communities and can be used to measure the benefits of policies to reduce pollution."
Dr Poornima Prabhakaran, deputy director of the Centre for Environmental Health at Public Health Foundation of India, said, working unseen inside the human body, particulate pollution has a more devastating impact on life expectancy than communicable diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, behavioural killers like cigarette smoking and even war.