Indian cities have worst air quality in the world

Indian cities have worst air quality in the world

The WHO data also said that nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. (Reuters file photo)

The world’s worst quality air is found in at least a dozen Indian cities, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi, said the World Health Organisation’s latest report on air pollution worldwide.

Because of such poor quality of air inhaled daily by crores of people, WHO’s Southeast Asia (India included) region bears a heavy burden of diseases, some of which could even be fatal. Besides Varanasi, three other cities in Uttar Pradesh— Agra, Kanpur and Lucknow— figure in the top 10 list of cities with the worst level of PM-2.5— fine dust particles of 2.5-micron diameter that are inhaled with every breath.

A surprising entry is of Srinagar, while Delhi retains its dubious status of being one of the world’s worst polluted cities.

South fares better

Southern metros like Bengaluru and Chennai fared better in the worldwide list that includes annual average air pollution data from nearly 130 Indian cities.

WHO estimates more than 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in the polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases, including stroke, heart-related ailment, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections including pneumonia.

A similar trend was found in the case of ambient (outdoor) air pollution, as out of 4.2 million global deaths, as many as 1.3 million or 30% were reported from the region.

Other Indian cities with extremely poor quality air are Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Muzaffarpur, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur.

The air pollution levels in these cities are terrible not only on account of PM-2.5 but equally dangerous when it comes to little bigger PM-10 particles. The levels of PM-2.5 and PM-10 in most of the Indian cities are way above the safe limits prescribed by the WHO as well as the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The annual average WHO safe limits for PM-2.5 and PM-10 are 10 and 20 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively.

The CPCB limits are 40 and 60 micrograms, respectively. No Indian cities are anywhere close to the WHO safe standards, but some of them in the south and east are close to the CPCB limits.

Scene in Bengaluru

Though Bengaluru is better than all northern cities, the Karnataka capital witnessed a high PM-10 level over the years even though the PM-2.5 level was closer to the CPCB safe limits.

Bengaluru had an annual average PM-10 level of 107 in 2012, which increased up to 120 in 2014 before coming down to 98 in 2016.