Delhi is the most polluted capital, and Gurugram, the most polluted city in the world, according to IQ Air Visual 2018 World Air Quality Report and World’s Most Polluted Cities ranking published Tuesday.
Out of 20 most polluted cities in the world, 18 are in India, Pakistan
Out of this, India is home to 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, with Gurugram and Ghaziabad being the most polluted cities in the world, followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi
“Air pollution steals our livelihoods and our futures, but we can change that,” said Yeb Sano, Executive Director of Greenpeace, South East Asia. “We want this report to make people think about the air we breathe, because when we understand the impacts of air quality on our lives, we will act to protect what’s most important.”
The database comprising of PM2.5 concentration levels for more than 3000 cities worldwide, paints a grim picture of the impending health emergency caused by air pollution. It builds on and further corroborates the results of the World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality database released last year, the most comprehensive collection of global air quality data.
IQAir CEO Frank Hammes said in an official press release following the report launch, “The 2018 World Air Quality Report is based on the review, compilation
The long and short of it
According to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of India, the annual permissible limit for PM2.5 is 40 µg/m3, while that prescribed by the WHO is even lower, at 10 µg/m3.
Bearing these threshold figures in mind, it is important to assess the extent of pollution in Delhi, which had an average yearly PM2.5 concentration at 113.5 µg/m3, and average PM10 levels more than 10 times the WHO guidelines. Dhaka was ranked the second-most polluted capital at 97.1 µg/m3, while Kabul was at the third position with 61.8 µg/m3. Mumbai follows close behind, among the most polluted megacities in the world.
This worsening trend across South Asia was, however, set against a fall in PM10 and PM2.5 particulate matter in more than half of European and American cities between 2010 and 2016, as per the earlier WHO report.
In fact, the UN body had noted that the most rapid deterioration of air quality was in
The report also noted that average concentrations in Chinese cities fell by 12% from 2017 to 2018, with Beijing’s air quality getting better than most of its Asian counterparts. The famously polluted Chinese capital now ranks as the 122nd most polluted city in the world even as Delhi takes the 11th spot.
Meanwhile, Indonesian capital Jakarta and Vietnamese capital Hanoi feature among Southeast Asia’s most polluted cities.
Besides assessing the state of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in 2018, the Air Visual-Greenpeace report highlights a widespread but unequal distribution of PM2.5 pollution that widens the air pollution inequality between rich and poor nations.
The report does not mince words when it comes to brass tacks. Air pollution will take an estimated seven million lives globally in the next
It also notes the limited access to public information when it comes to air quality monitoring.
Lack of sufficient data
The report aims to meet the rise in demand for hyper-local air quality monitoring in cities or regions where no public data is available. Everyone with a cellphone has free access to the Greenpeace data via the AirVisual platform, said Frank Hammes of IQAir. This has also created demand for air quality monitoring in cities or regions where no public data is available.
“Communities and organizations from California to Kabul are supplementing governmental monitoring efforts with their own
The air pollution gap
The air quality in rich cities has improved while the pollution in poorer countries continues to rise and kill seven million people—mostly in developing nations per year globally—according to WHO’s data from last year. The US and Canada were the only countries with 80% of its populace breathing air that meets WHO guidelines on particulates. In Asia and the Middle East, that figure was close to zero.
However, while average air quality is good in global comparison, historic wildfires had a dramatic impact on air quality in August and November, with 5 out of 10 most polluted cities in the world during August found in North America, noted the Greenpeace report.
This underlines the role played by government policies and financial resources in abating pollution. The situation also warrants a discussion on whether the development model that ferried the ‘developed world’ through the industrial revolution will work in a world concerned with climate justice.
Until we don’t cut down on the combustion of fossil fuels, which remains the key driver of climate change and air pollution, our carbon footprint will assume catastrophic levels by the turn of the century.
“Local and national governments can help tackle the effects of air pollution by providing adequate monitoring and reporting infrastructure. What is clear is that the common culprit across the globe is the burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil and gas—worsened by the cutting down our forests. What we need to see is our leaders thinking seriously about our health and the climate by looking at a fair transition [away] from fossil fuels, while telling us clearly the level of our air quality, so that steps can be taken to tackle this health and climate crisis,” Sano wrote in an official statement after the launch.
An illicit (aff)air
The air pollution problem in India, particularly in Delhi, oscillated between ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ this winter despite the government’s novel approaches to tackle the problem: from the odd-even rule for license plate numbers to curb vehicular emissions to policies to popularise electric vehicles and alternate energy sources across the city, even proposing artificial rain to help the particulate matter (PM) settle.
Several pollution indices including Airpocalypse-III by Greenpeace India have shed light on how air pollution impacts the daily lives of Indians. The report highlighted that the number of non-attainment cities in India (cities consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality standards) has gone up to 241 from initially identified 102 by the central pollution control board and the government.
Pujarini Sen of Greenpeace India said, “IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report is a reminder to us indicating that our efforts and actions to reduce the invisible killer, i.e., air pollution, are not enough, and we need to do much more than already planned and done.”
Besides ecologically sensitive personal habits, for India to breathe clean air, government policies like the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) and Comprehensive Action Plans (CAP) must be more stringent, aggressive, legally binding and most of all implementable at ground rather than being just used a political statement without much happening at ground, she said.
“Beijing is showing us that it can be done, as have many other cities in Europe and U.S. over past decades, we have enough of research and studies suggesting the way ahead towards breathable India,” Sen said, “the question which remains to be answered is whether there is enough political will to aggressively fight the health emergency India faces today and move away from polluting fuels and practices of past?”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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