Air quality: Delhi worst among capitals, 35 Indian cities in top 50

A report on air quality prepared by a Swiss organisation has found that Delhi was the most polluted capital in the world for the fourth consecutive year in 2021 and 35 of the worst 50 cities with air quality were in India.

The World Air Quality Report 2021 prepared by Swiss organization IQAir and released on Tuesday, said that no Indian city met the WHO standard for air quality which prescribes 5 micrograms per cubic meter in PM 2.5 for good health of people in the region.

The report took into account the PM2.5 measure air quality data from 6,475 cities in 117 countries.

Dhaka ranked second after Delhi among world capitals, and was followed by NDjamena in Chad, Dushanbe in Tajikistan and Muscat in Oman.


Delhi’s PM2.5 concentrations rose 14.6 per cent in 2021 to 96.4 micrograms per cubic meter from 84 micrograms per cubic meter in 2020, the report said.

“India continues to feature prominently among the most polluted cities with 35 of the top 50 most polluted cities being in this country. India’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 g/m3 in 2021, ending a three-year trend of improving air quality,” it said.

“India’s annual PM2.5 averages have returned to pre-quarantine concentrations as measured in 2019. Alarmingly, in 2021, none of the Indian cities met the prescribed WHO standards of 5 g/m3,” it said.

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The report also noted that 48 per cent of Indian cities exceeded 50 g/m3 air quality level which is well over 10 times the WHO guidelines.

Commenting on IQAir’s data, Avinash Chanchal, campaign manager at Greenpeace India, told PTI the report is a wake-up call for governments and corporations.

Stressing on the impact air pollution has on health, he called for switching to cleaner fuels and the promotion of renewable energy for transportation, as that was the primary cause of air pollution.

“The good thing is we don’t need to invest in science to find the solutions to the air pollution crisis. We know the solution and it is readily accessible. It is high time that governments promote renewable energy for transportation and build infrastructure that encourages cycling, public transport and pedestrians,” he said.

On the global front, the report finds that only three per cent of cities and no single country met the latest WHOs PM2.5 annual air quality guidelines.