The high levels of air pollution in Delhi are a matter of concern. According to a report by Swiss organisation, IQAir, India's capital is the most polluted capital city in the world. It said that although Delhi's air quality improved by nearly 15 per cent from 2019 to 2020, the city still ranked as the 10th most polluted city in the world and the most polluted capital.
The 'World Air Quality Report 2020' added that 22 of the world's 30 most polluted cities including Delhi are in India. Ghaziabad, a city in Uttar Pradesh and a part of the National Capital Region of Delhi, is the second most polluted city in the world after Xinjiang in China. The eight Indian cities in the top 10 list are -- Bulandshahar, Bisrakh Jalalpur, Noida, Greater Noida, Kanpur, Lucknow (all in UP), Bhiwari in Rajasthan and Delhi.
The other Indian cities among the 30 most polluted cities in the world include Meerut, Agra and Muzaffarnagar (all in Uttar Pradesh), Faridabad, Jind, Hisar, Fatehabad, Bandhwari, Gurugram, Yamuna Nagar, Rohtak and Dharuhera (all in Haryana), and Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
"India continues to feature prominently at the top of the most polluted cities ranking, with 22 of the top 30 most polluted cities globally," the report said.
The global cities ranking report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries, which is measured by ground-based monitoring stations, most of which are operated by government agencies. The report also reveals the impact of COVID-19 lockdown and behavioural changes on global particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels.
Major sources of India's air pollution include transportation, biomass burning for cooking, electricity generation, industry, construction, waste burning and episodic agricultural burning. "The transportation sector is one of the major contributors to India's leading PM2.5 emission sources across cities,” the report said.
Contextualising the global IQAir report in the Indian context, Avinash Chanchal, Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace India said while many cities, including Delhi, have recorded marginal improvements in air quality due to lockdowns, the health and economic cost of air pollution remain severe. He said it is pertinent that governments prioritise sustainable and clean energy sources, as well as the cities, need to encourage low cost, active and carbon-neutral mobility choices such as walking, cycling, and accessible public transport.
"Speeding up the transition to clean energy and clean transport not only saves lives but also dramatically reduces healthcare-related costs,” Chanchal said.
"The year 2020 brought an unexpected dip in air pollution. In 2021, we will likely see an increase in air pollution due to human activity, again. We hope this report will highlight that urgent action is both possible and necessary to combat air pollution, which remains the world's greatest environmental health threat," said CEO of IQAir Frank Hammes.
Notably, India was home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities in 2020, according to IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report.
Earlier in February, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data said that air pollution caused by hazardous PM2.5 fine particulate matter led to the death of 54,000 people in Delhi in 2020 where pollution levels remained almost six times above the prescribed WHO limits. It said that 1800 deaths per million were estimated due to PM2.5 air pollution in Delhi.
(With PTI Inputs)