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PARIS: Toxic air that chokes Indian cities and kills hundreds of thousands of people also carries a grim economic burden for the country’s companies of around $95 billion a year, according to researchers who urged firms to lead the drive against pollution.

Air pollution shortens lives worldwide by nearly three years on average, and causes millions of premature deaths annually. India is one of the worst affected countries, with many regions often cloaked in a smog of hazardous particles. The Lancet’s Global Burden of Disease study estimated pollution caused some 1.7 million premature deaths in India in 2019 — nearly 18 percent of all deaths in the country.

Building on this, a new analysis by consultancy firm Dalberg Advisors found that pollution-related absenteeism, productivity loss, reduced consumer and tourist spending all add up to cost Indian businesses $95 billion a year, roughly three percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Lost working years from the hundreds of thousands of premature deaths were estimated to cost the Indian economy $44 billion in 2019, according to the report, which was commissioned by the Clean Air Fund, a philanthropic organisation.

Beyond that, Dalberg said the effects of pollution on Indian workers’ health means they take 1.4 billion sick days a year, which they said amounts to around $6 billion in lost revenue. The report also found that toxic air disincentivises people to venture out of their homes more generally, hitting consumer spending and ultimately costing businesses $22 billion in lost earnings.

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