Delhi world’s most polluted capital; ranks fourth among cities, Ghaziabad 2nd

Delhi: 23 March, 2022 (Times of India)


NEW DELHI: Delhi emerged as the most polluted capital and the fourth most polluted city in the world, according to a 2021 World Air Quality Report by Swiss organisation IQAir.
The report said Delhi saw a 14.6% increase in PM2.5 concentration in 2021, with levels rising to 96.4 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metres) from 84 ug/m3 in 2020. This was nearly 20 times the WHO’s safety limit of 5 ug/m3.

Thirty-five of the world’s 50 most polluted cities were in India, the report said. None of the Indian cities met the prescribed WHO standards for PM2.5 while 48% of the country’s cities exceeded 50 ug/m3, or more than 10 times the WHO guidelines. The report named 63 Indian cities in the 100 most polluted worldwide.

According to the report, Bhiwadi in Rajasthan was the most polluted city in the word, followed by Ghaziabad in UP. Both fall in NCR. They were followed by Hotan (China), New Delhi and Jaunpur (UP), Faisalabad (Pakistan), Noida (UP), Bahawalpur (Pakistan), Peshawar (Pakistan) and Bagpat (UP).

 “India’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 ug/m3 in 2021, ending a three-year trend of improving air quality. Its annual PM2.5 averages have now returned to pre-quarantine concentrations as measured in 2019,” the report stated.

Pointing out challenges, the report said air pollution is the second-biggest risk factor for disease and its economic cost is estimated to exceed $150 billion annually.

The report stated that while the Union environment ministry enacted the National Clean Air Programme, which aims to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30% by 2024 in all non-attainment cities, the lockdowns, restrictions and the economic downturn due to the pandemic have made it difficult to determine the plan’s impact based on air pollution levels alone.

The report listed vehicular emissions, power generation, industrial waste, biomass combustion for cooking, construction and stubble burning as the major sources of pollution.

“It is estimated that 20% to 35% of the total urban PM2.5 concentrations is directly or indirectly due to internal combustion engines in motor vehicles. Annual vehicle sales in India are expected to increase, with the estimated fleet reaching 10.5 million in 2030,” the report said.

Greenpeace India campaign manager Avinash Chanchal termed the report “a wake-up call” for governments and corporations.

“It once again highlights that people are breathing dangerously polluted air. Vehicular emissions are one of the major contributors to urban PM2.5 concentrations. With annual vehicle sales in India set to increase, it is certainly going to impact the air quality if corrective measures are not taken in time,” he said.

Chanchal said the solution was “readily accessible”. “PM air pollution is produced by burning of fuels, which is a major contributor to the climate crisis. It is high time that governments promote renewable energy for transportation and build infrastructure that encourages cycling, public transport and pedestrians,” he added.