On Tuesday, Swiss firm IQAir released its ‘World Air Quality Report’, which determined that India had dropped from fifth to eighth place in the list of the world’s most polluted countries in 2022.
Although the PM 2.5 level has decreased to 53.3 micrograms/cubic meter, it remains more than 10 times higher than the safe limit set by the World Health Organization.
The report ranks countries based on the levels of PM 2.5, a pollutant closely monitored by health experts and scientists.
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The data used for the report was collected from over 30,000 ground-based monitors, either operated by governments or non-governmental organizations, across 131 countries.
The latest air quality report by Swiss firm IQAir, covering over 7,300 cities, reveals that Indian cities continue to dominate the list of the world’s most polluted cities.
The report estimates the economic cost of air pollution in India to be $150 billion, with transportation contributing to 20-35% of the PM 2.5 pollution, while industrial units, coal-fired power plants, and biomass burning are other significant sources of pollution.
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Lahore in Pakistan and Hotan in China are the two most polluted cities, followed by Bhiwadi in Rajasthan and Delhi at fourth place, where the PM 2.5 level stands at 92.6 micrograms, nearly 20 times higher than the safe limit.
The report shows that six Indian cities feature in the top 10, 14 in the top 20, 39 in the top 50, and a staggering 65 in the top 100, up from 61 in the previous year. Delhi and New Delhi are both in the top 10, based on a new classification.
Delhi no longer most polluted capital
In the latest air quality report by Swiss firm IQAir, New Delhi has been ranked as the second most polluted city in the world, while the title of the world’s most polluted capital goes to Chad’s N’Djamena.
The report distinguishes between “greater” Delhi and New Delhi, both of which are in the top 10. The difference in pollution levels between N’Djamena and New Delhi is minimal, with a difference of only 0.6 micrograms of PM 2.5.
It’s worth noting that N’Djamena’s population is less than a million while New Delhi’s population is over four million.
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On a positive note, Delhi’s neighbouring towns of Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad, and Faridabad have seen a decline in pollution levels, ranging from 21-34% compared to previous years, while Delhi’s pollution levels have dipped by only 8%.
Despite a decline in pollution levels in nearby towns of Delhi, such as Ghaziabad and Gurugram, the actual levels of pollution in these cities are still far higher than the national average. For instance, Ghaziabad’s PM 2.5 average for 2022 is over 88 micrograms, while Gurugram’s is 70.
The high levels of pollution pose a significant health risk, particularly to vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions like asthma, cancer, and diabetes.
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Although pollution levels have declined, the air remains hazardous, and the entire region has a population of millions, estimated between 38-42 million.
It is worth noting that while there has been a decline in pollution levels in some cities, there has also been an increase in pollution levels in others. As many as 38 cities and towns have seen a rise in pollution compared to the average of previous years.
Out of the other metropolitan cities, Kolkata has the second highest level of pollution after Delhi, but with a significant difference. Chennai, on the other hand, is comparatively the cleanest with pollution levels only exceeding the WHO’s safe limit by a factor of 5.
It is worth noting that the only metropolitan cities where pollution levels have increased above the average since 2017 are Hyderabad and Bengaluru.