In the year 2022, India was the eighth most polluted country in the world, while last year our country was at the fifth position.
Although the PM 2.5 level in India has dropped to 53.3 micrograms per cubic metre, it is still more than 10 times the World Health Organization (WHO) safe limit.
Swiss firm IQAir has given this ranking in its ‘World Air Quality Report’ released on Tuesday, and the basis of the ranking has been made on the level of PM 2.5, which scientists and health experts consider to be the main pollutant, and keep an eye on it.
The data was drawn from 131 countries, collected from more than 30,000 ground-based monitors, including governmental and non-governmental monitors.
Indian cities are very visible in the list of top polluted cities.
This time, the maximum number of more than 7,300 cities has been recorded in the list, while the last time in 2017, the list of less than 2,200 cities was made.
According to the report, the economic cost of air pollution in India is US$ 150 billion. The transportation sector produces 20-35 percent of the total pollution of PM 2.5 in India.
Apart from this, other sources of pollution include industrial units, coal-fired power plants and biomass burning.
Pakistan’s Lahore and China’s Hotan are the most polluted cities in the world, followed by Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi and Delhi on the third and fourth places.
The level of PM 2.5 in Delhi is 92.6 micrograms, which is almost 20 times more than the safe limit.
Alas! India is featured in the top list. India has 6 of the world’s top 10 cities in terms of pollution (see table at the end of the story), 14 of the top 20, 39 of the top 50 Indian cities, and 10 of the top 100 polluted cities.
Out of these 65 cities belong to India. Last year there were 61 cities of India in this list.
After the new classification, both Delhi and New Delhi are now included in the top 10 polluted cities.
Delhi has so far been the world’s most polluted capital, but this year the report makes a distinction between ‘Greater’ Delhi and the capital New Delhi. Both feature in the top 10 as separate cities, but New Delhi has slipped to second place in the list of polluted capitals, and the world’s most polluted capital is now Chad’s Enjamena.
There is a difference of only 0.6 microgram in the level of PM 2.5 pollution in both the cities.
It is also worth noting the fact that the population of Enjamena is less than one million, while the population of New Delhi is more than 4 million.
Meanwhile, there is also a piece of news which can be termed as heart-warming information – pollution levels have come down in Delhi’s neighboring cities of Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad – compared to the PM 2.5 levels recorded in previous years.
There has been a decline of 34 per cent and 21 per cent in Faridabad. The decline in Delhi has been only 8 per cent.
The actual level of pollution in the neighboring cities of Delhi is much higher than the Indian average. In 2002, Ghaziabad’s PM 2.5 level was more than 88 micrograms, and Gurgaon’s was 70 micrograms.
Those most at risk from such high levels of pollution are children, as their lungs are developing, the elderly, and the sick, especially those with asthma, cancer, and diabetes.
This decline cannot be seen as an improvement because of the high health risk – because the air is still toxic. The entire belt – the mega city – has a population in the hundreds of millions, and estimates range from 38 to 42 million.
Interesting information is that the decline in pollution level in 31 cities has also been in double digits.
Out of these 31 cities, 10 are from Uttar Pradesh, and 7 from Haryana. The biggest decline has been recorded in the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, at about 55 per cent. Between 2017 and 2021, the average PM 2.5 level here has been 85 micrograms, but in 2022 it has come down to just 38 micrograms per cubic metre.
The other aspect of these figures is that 38 cities remained such, where an increase in the level of pollution was recorded as compared to the previous years.
Compared to other metro cities, Kolkata is the second most polluted city after Delhi, but the difference is huge compared to Delhi.
By comparison, Chennai is much cleaner, with pollution levels ‘only’ 5 times the WHO safe level.
The metro cities which have recorded an increase in the average level of pollution since 2017 include Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
72 of the world’s 100 most polluted cities are in South Asia. Even though almost all the cities are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are above us in the list of 10 most polluted countries.
But remember, air pollution is a common problem of these countries, because there is ‘air shed’, that is, pollutants move from one place to another.
If all countries, including Nepal, do all that is technically possible, and there is ‘perfect coordination’ between them, the cost will be US$278 million per 1 microgram per cubic metre, but if they work separately, A reduction of 1 microgram per cubic meter of PM 2.5 would cost US$2.6 billion.
At present, the cost that human society is paying due to PM 2.5 is more than 2 million untimely deaths in the region.