Delhi Remains Most Polluted Capital; Improvements in National Air Quality May be Due to Economic Woes
The World Air Quality Report, 2019, by IQAir AirVisual showed that Ghaziabad topped the charts of most polluted cities in 2019.
News18 Creative by Mir Suhail
New Delhi: On the day US President Donald Trump arrived at Rashtrapati Bhavan under a cover of haze, a new report has revealed that 14 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India and Delhi was the most polluted capital city in the world.
On the other hand, Beijing, capital of neighbouring China, has managed to improve air quality for the seventh year in a row and dropped out of top 200 most polluted cities.
The World Air Quality Report, 2019, by IQAir AirVisual showed that Ghaziabad topped the charts of most polluted cities in 2019. It had an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 110.2.
The World Health Organisation’s PM2.5 standards say annual mean of 10 micrograms/cubic metre should be maintained.
Among advanced economies, South Korea was the most polluted country for PM2.5 during 2019. Air quality levels in key cities have remained relatively stagnant over recent years. Bangladesh, on the other hand, was the most polluted country for exposure to PM2.5 weighted by population.
The report’s findings are based only on PM2.5 concentrations, which are particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, smaller than human hair.
The report noted a 20% decrease in national air pollution in India between 2018 and 2019 across 98% of the cities.
However, it could be a cause of both worry and some relief because the dip has been largely attributed to the economic slowdown in the country.
“As a weighted average based on the available data, national air pollution decreased by a remarkable 20 per cent from 2018 to 2019. Unfortunately, these improvements may not be fully representative of the very recent but promising National Clean Air Programme and cleaner fuel Bharat VI introduction, but are rather more indicative of a slowing of the marketplace,” the report said.
It has been a year since India launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
The Union budget has allocated Rs 4,400 crore for National Clean Air Programme, which will target to reduce concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 in 102 cities by 20% to 30% by 2024 over the 2017 annual average levels.
However, several large coal-fired thermal power plants are yet to meet deadlines to modernise the plants to meet the stringent pollution norms laid down by Central Pollution Control Board.
Earlier this month, CPCB issued a warning to 14 coal-fired thermal power plants for not meeting the new emissions norms. Even Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned in her budget speech that a few old thermal power plants may have to be closed down to control air quality.
Frank Hammes, CEO of IQAir, said, “While the new coronavirus is dominating international headlines, a silent killer is contributing to nearly 7 million more deaths a year: air pollution. Through compiling and visualising data from thousands of air quality monitoring stations, the 2019 World Air Quality Report gives new context to the world’s leading environmental health threat."
The report’s conclusions are based on PM2.5 data collected from global monitoring stations in 2019. The data represented has been aggregated primarily in real-time by IQAir AirVisual platform along with historical datasets.
Additional PM2.5 data has been brought together from thousands of initiatives run by citizens, communities and companies, through validated low-cost sensors. Many of these stations represent the only available, real-time air quality information for their area, the report said.
Central Pollution Control Board officers could not be reached immediately for a comment.
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