As per a new air quality report, New Delhi was found to be the most polluted capital in the world for the fourth consecutive year in 2021 and 35 of the 50 cities with the worst air quality were in India, whereas no country met the latest WHO air quality guideline for PM2.5.
New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital city in 2021, followed by Dhaka (Bangladesh), N’Djamena (Chad), Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and Muscat (Oman), stated the World Air Quality Report 2021, prepared by Swiss organization IQAir and released globally on Tuesday.
Moreover, India was home to 11 of the 15 most polluted cities in Central and South Asia in 2021, the report highlighted.
Further, in 2021, none of the cities in India met the prescribed World Health Organization (WHO) air quality standards of 5 micrograms per cubic meter, the report stated.
The report, presenting an overview of the state of global air quality in 2021, is based on PM2.5 air quality data from 6,475 cities in 117 countries.
It said that New Delhi saw a 14.6 per cent increase in PM2.5 concentrations in 2021 with the levels rising to 96.4 micrograms per cubic meter from 84 micrograms per cubic meter in 2020, the report said.
“India also continues to feature prominently among the most polluted cities with 35 of the top 50 most polluted cities being in this country. India's annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 µg/m3 in 2021, ending a three-year trend of improving air quality,” it said.
The report stated, “India's annual PM2.5 averages have returned to pre-quarantine concentrations as measured in 2019. Alarmingly, in 2021, none of the Indian cities met the prescribed WHO standards of 5 µg/m3.”
It also revealed that 48 per cent of Indian cities exceeded 50 µg/m3 air quality level which is well over 10 times the WHO guidelines.
On the global front, the report said that only 3 per cent of cities and no single country met the latest PM2.5 annual air quality guidelines of WHO.
Air quality in China continued to improve in 2021. More than half of the cities in China included in the report saw lower levels of air pollution when compared to the previous year. Pollution levels within the capital city of Beijing continued a five-year trend of improved air quality, driven by emission control and reduction of coal power plant activity and other high emission industries.
Central and South Asia had some of the world’s worst air quality in 2021 and was home to 46 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities. The only two cities that met updated WHO PM2.5 guideline were Zhezqazghan and Chu (Kazakhstan), the report added.
Moreover, air quality monitoring remained sparse in Africa, South America and the Middle East, it said, adding that progress has been made by low-cost air quality sensors often operated by non-profit organisations and citizen scientists.
Commenting on IQAir's recent data, Avinash Chanchal, campaign manager at Greenpeace India, said that the report is a wake-up call for governments and corporations.
“It is once again highlighting 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 expected to increase, it is certainly going to impact air quality if corrective measures are not taken in time,” Chanchal said.
He asserted that air pollution has a massive impact on human health and is a major indicator of the accelerating climate catastrophe. He called for switching to cleaner fuels and the promotion of renewable energy for transportation.
“The good thing is we don't need to invest in science to find the solutions to the air pollution crisis. We know the solution and it is readily accessible. PM air pollution is produced by the 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 said.
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