New Delhi: The quality of air in China is twice as bad as in India, a World Bank report said, adding India’s air quality is also better than that of Pakistan and Nepal. The report comes in the wake of growing alarm over air pollution in India.

The Little Green Data Book 2015 covering forestry, biodiversity, oceans, energy, emission and pollution, water and sanitation in more than 200 countries was released by the World Bank last week.

Several recent reports have highlighted India’s worsening air quality and termed Delhi the worst polluted city in the country. India’s National Green Tribunal has passed several orders in the past few months to check air pollution in Delhi and its neighbourhood.

“Average exposure to air pollution has worsened since 1990 for the East Asia and Pacific and the South Asia regions and remained the same for Sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast, conditions have improved significantly for Europe and Central Asia, and marginally for the Latin America and the Caribbean and the Middle East Pollution hotspots: As per the report, China’s per capita CO2 emission was 6.2 metric tonnes, compared with India’s 1.7 metric tonnes. and North Africa regions," the report said.

World Bank, which has been publishing this report every year for the last 15 years, this year included new indicators on ambient air pollution in both urban and rural areas—measured by particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5).

Exposure to PM2.5 pollution poses health risks as the very fine dust penetrates deep into the respiratory tract and causes severe damage. According to some studies, exposure to PM2.5 pollution led to more than 3.2 million premature deaths globally in 2010.

As per the report, China’s mean annual exposure to PM2.5 pollution was 73 micrograms per cu. m while India’s level stood at 32 micrograms per cu. m—which was also the average in South Asia.

However, the PM2.5 exposure for both India and China is beyond the World Health Organization’s recommended level of 10 micrograms per cu. m or less. In South Asia, India’s air quality is better than that of Pakistan and Nepal, whose PM2.5 levels were 38 and 33 micrograms per cu. m. Other countries in the region such as Bangladesh (31), Afghanistan (24), Bhutan (22), Maldives (16) and Sri Lanka (9) had lower levels of PM2.5 exposure. Experts, however, had a word of caution.

“Overall, this indicates pollution is high and more pervasive across China that also has 60% urbanization rate. But India with half the urbanization rate has more concentrated pollution hotspots. So India must act on time to prevent the rapid proliferation of more pollution hotspots," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an environmental non-governmental organization.

“Earlier, the global burden of disease estimates had shown that while more than 12 lakh (1.2 million) premature deaths happen in China due to air pollution; in India, it is half of that," said Roychowdhury, who is also the head of CSE’s air pollution and clean transportation programme.

Apart from the PM2.5 scale, China’s energy use and per capita CO2 (carbon-dioxide) emissions were also thrice as much as India’s.

As per the report, China’s per capita CO2 emission was 6.2 metric tonnes, compared with India’s 1.7 metric tonnes.

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