National capital Delhi, PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi and Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur were among the 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, according to a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report.
According to the WHO global air pollution database released in Geneva on Wednesday, 14 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were Indian.
Other Indian cities with hazardous levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Lucknow, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur.
The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.
Annual Deaths Due To Outdoor and Household Air Pollution
Nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants, the new WHO report stated.
The Southeast Asia Region, which comprises India, accounted for 34 per cent or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution annually.
Of the 3.8 million deaths caused by household air pollution globally, the region accounts for 1.5 million or 40 per cent deaths, and of the 4.2 million global deaths due to ambient air pollution, 1.3 million or 30 per cent are reported from the region, it said.
The WHO warned all the Southeast Asia nations to aggressively address the double burden of household and outdoor air pollution.
WHO’s global urban air pollution database measured the levels of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) from more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries, according to which ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.
Since 2016, over 1,000 additional cities have been added to WHO’s database, which shows more countries are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution than ever before.
How badly the air pollution threatens us?
“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalised people bear the brunt of the burden. It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people most of them women and children are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.
The report, however, stated countries are making efforts and taking measures and in this context, referred to India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which it said, in just two years, has provided 37 million women living below the poverty line with free LPG connections to support them to switch to clean household energy use.
Major sources of air pollution from particulate matter include inefficient use of energy by households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants. In some regions, sand and desert dust, waste burning and deforestation are additional sources of air pollution.
“Air pollution does not recognise borders. Improving air quality demands sustained and coordinated government action at all levels,” the WHO said.
(With inputs from agencies)