WHO recently released global air pollution database in Geneva. WHO monitored 4,300 world cities for their air pollution levels in terms of PM 2.5 levels in the year 2016. The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.
As per the database, 14 out of 15 most polluted cities in the world are from India and the top 14 cities are from India only.
Kanpur is the most polluted city which came on top with PM 2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic meter.
Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.
The national Capital climbed down from the fourth spot, where it appeared in WHO 2015 data, to the sixth spot only.
Level of threat from air pollution worldwide:
According to a study which drew off the most-recent data 2016 data, 9 out of 10 people are exposed to dangerously high levels of pollutants around the world which leads to the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Air pollution levels were the highest in the eastern Mediterranean and southeast Asia. Here, in some of the areas, the airborne toxins were five times the limits set by the WHO. These toxins affected the poor and most vulnerable.
Air pollution is the reason behind a dozen of diseases which often prove to be lethal. Almost 7 million deaths were caused by household and outdoor pollution in the previous year.
In November last year, the toxic smog in Delhi forced the Indian Medical Association to declare a public health emergency, advising citizens to stay indoors, and for schools to be shut. The fog, according to experts, was a “deadly mixture of vehicular pollution, construction and road dust and stubble burning.”
In January this year, the Supreme Court asked the central government to look into the problem of air pollution on a nationwide basis and not confine it to Delhi-NCR only, saying reports suggested that many cities like Raipur, Patna, Allahabad were more polluted.
To combat air pollution, the government in March this year finalized a Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP), “specifically” for Delhi-NCR. The plan has a number of measures including actions to reduce vehicular emissions and control dust from constructions.
The World Health Organisation has called upon member-countries in its Southeast Asia region to aggressively address the double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution, saying the region, which comprises India, accounts for 34% or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution together globally every year. Therefore, Air pollution needs to be brought under control with urgent and effective action.