India has 15 out of 20 most polluted cities in world: Study

Fifteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida and Bhiwadi in the top six, according to a new study

India’s National Capital Region (NCR) has emerged as the most polluted region in the world in the last year, according to a new report. The latest data compiled in the IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report and their interactive World’s Most Polluted Cities Ranking, prepared in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, reveals the state of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in 2018.

India has 15 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, with Gurugram and Ghaziabad being the most polluted cities, followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi and Noida in the top six, with Delhi in the 11th spot, it said. Out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 18 are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the report said.

China’s capital Beijing, once among the most polluted cities in the world, ranked 122nd in the list of the most polluted cities last year, based on PM2.5 data but is still at least five times more polluted than the World Health Organisation annual safety limits of 10 µg/m3. The database comprised of PM2.5 data for more than 3,000 cities.

The report identified some of the major sources or causes of ambient air pollution. “Industries, households, cars and trucks emit complex mixtures of air pollutants, many of which are harmful to health. Of all of these pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest effect on human health,” it said. “Most fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both, from mobile sources such as vehicles and from stationary sources such as power plants, industry, households, agriculture or biomass burning,” the report added.

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Environment activists have expressed concern and said the government’s programmes to clean air should ‘do more than making political statements’. Pujarini Sen, an activist associated with Greenpeace India, said the report was a reminder to us, indicating that we need to put efforts and actions to reduce the invisible killer.

“If we want India to breathe clean air, it is high time that our plans such as the National Clean Air Programme, Graded Response Action Plan and Clean Air Programme, become much more stringent, aggressive, legally binding and most of all implementable at ground, rather than just being used as a political statement without much happening at ground,” Sen said.

Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder of Care for Air NGO, said Delhi and its neighbouring areas have held the dubious distinction of being the most polluted places in the world. “Delhi will remain the most polluted, unless we make a concerted effort on a war footing from the top-down to clean the air. What we need is a ‘clean air czar’ – an empowered, accountable authority whose single goal is to reduce pollution in our country through measurable and time-bound actions,” she said. “This is a national public health emergency and we cannot afford small, incremental progress. We need strong, focussed action that befits a real emergency,” Lavakare added.

Ravina Kohli, environmentalist and a member of #MyRightToBreathe campaign, said the country lacks the ‘political will’ to make public health a priority. “Just because health issues do not historically convert to votes, politicians have slashed budgets, ignored this public health emergency and compromised citizens’ lives. Human lives will matter more than political gain, if we have true leaders in charge,” she added. Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO of URJA, added: “It is for the government to promote eco-friendly industries and construction solutions, as well as hasten the usage of better fuels for automobiles, as well as two-wheelers that are also major polluters. The pollution control boards are toothless and ill-equipped.”