- Delhi ranked as the most polluted city globally in terms of PM 10 levels
- 14 Indian cities featured in the list of top 20 most polluted cities
- Asia and Africa accounted for 90% of the 7 million annual deaths
New Delhi: Delhi, Varanasi, Kanpur are among the 14 Indian cities to feature in the list of 20 most polluted cities in the world, in terms of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels of air pollution. According to World Health Organization’s latest report on global air pollution, Mumbai ranked fourth among global cities with high particulate matter PM 10 levels. There are 13 other Indian cities, including Varanasi, Kanpur, Patna and Muzaffarpur that feature in the list of top 20 cities with severe concentration of PM 10 particles in their air.
According to WHO, 9 out of 10 people in the world are breathing polluted air, putting their health at enormous risk. Outdoor and household air pollution result in about 7 million deaths annually. WHO’s focus on India and South Asia showed how the region is severely affected byair pollution. Asia and Africa accounted for more than 90 per cent of the deaths caused due to air pollution, an indication of how poor air quality is a serious concern in these in these two continents. In India, more than 9 lakh deaths due to air pollution were reported in 2016.
The WHO report does bring forward some critical information on urban Indian air pollution and again reaffirms that most Indian cities suffer from severe air pollution. The air pollution crisis last winter was attributed to several causes, from stubble burning to vehicular emission, and the WHO report confirms the same that there is no singular cause for air pollution in India, but multiple causes, making it more difficult to tackle air pollution, said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment.
To tackle air pollution temporary measures such as banning the sale of firecrackers and the Delhi government’s odd-even rule have provided some short term respite but none of these have long-term impact. The recently finalised National Clean Air Programme worth Rs 637 crore is the first comprehensive, pan-Indian programme which looks to tackle the problem of air pollution across India and gives the states adequate powers to look into their respective air pollution problems.
Air pollution is not a problem that can be resolved within a short time period. The NCAP will be instrumental in gathering data from all over India, identify reasons of air pollution in states and encourage states to take action accordingly, said C.K Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Despite so many cities from India finding a place in WHO’s list of most polluted cities, the organisation mentioned that like several other countries, India too is trying to take action to tackle the problem of air pollution. The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Scheme, that has provided over 37 million Indian women LPG connections since its launch in 2016 was praised by WHO as it is seen as an effort to reduce dependency on firewood, which is a primary cause of indoor pollution.
The WHO report also shows a relation between air pollution and economics, as developed economies such as Europe are much better at data gathering on air pollution and taking steps to address the problem. South Asian nations struggle to maintain nationwide programmes on controlling air pollution and that affects air quality in nations like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. Governments must invest more towards improving air quality, said Saranjeeet Kaur, Executive Assistant, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group.
Of approximately 50,000 cities in the world, only 4,300 provide air quality information. Though low, this is an increase of 30 per cent from the number of cities reporting air quality data in 2016 . It is an indication that both developed and developing economies still have miles to go before air pollution is brought under control, across the world.