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Even though slowing marketplace marginally brought down the pollution levels in India last year, the country still had 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities in 2019, showed a new global assessment of PM2.5 levels.

According to the report published by IQAir AirVisual, India saw widespread improvement in PM2.5 levels last year, compared to 2018, as a result of economic slowdown, favorable meteorological conditions and dedicated efforts towards cleaning the air.

Yet, none of the Indian cities included in the report- Delhi, Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Noida, Lucknow, Muzaffarnagar, Patna, Hisar, Faridabad and others, met the WHO target for annual pollution exposure (10ug/m3 ) during 2019. The organization has outlined an annual mean exposure threshold of 10µg/m³ to minimize the risk of health impacts from PM 2.5- a particulate matter known for its severe impact on respiratory system.

Air pollution continues to be a teething problem for India, which intensifies during winters when a thick blanket of smog envelops most cities in northern India.

“Every city in India with PM2.5 data in 2018 and 2019, except for Nagpur saw a decrease in PM2.5 levels in 2019. As a weighted average based on the available data, national air pollution decreased by a remarkable 20% from 2018 to 2019," says the report.

2019 was the year when Centre rolled out National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), an ambitious five-year action plan with a tentative target of 20-30% reduction in concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 in 102 non-attainment cities, by 2024, with 2017 as the base year.

However, the report highlights that these improvements were not fully representative of NCAP and cleaner fuel Bharat VI introduction whose long-term impacts are yet to be seen, but are rather more indicative of a slowing of the marketplace.

“India, still has a relatively limited air quality monitoring network given its population size, with many communities and highly populated cities without access to real-time information," it further noted, highlighting need for publishing real-time monitoring data to tackle the urgent issue of air pollution, "What is not measured cannot be managed."

The report includes data aggregated from a range of ground-based PM 2.5 monitoring stations. Data sources include real-time, hourly data from governmental monitoring stations, as well as validated PM2.5 monitors operated by private individuals and organizations.

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