Delhi emerged as the most polluted capital and the fourth most polluted city in the world, according to a 2021 World Air Quality Report by Swiss organisation IQAir.
The report said Delhi saw a 14.6% increase in PM2.5 concentration in 2021, with levels rising to 96.4 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metres) from 84 ug/m3 in 2020. This was nearly 20 times the WHO’s safety limit of 5 ug/m3.
Thirty-five of the world’s 50 most polluted cities were in India, the report said. None of the Indian cities met the prescribed WHO standards for PM2.5 while 48% of the country’s cities exceeded 50 ug/m3, or more than 10 times the WHO guidelines. The report named 63 Indian cities in the 100 most polluted worldwide.
According to the report, Bhiwadi in Rajasthan was the most polluted city in the word, followed by Ghaziabad in UP. Both fall in NCR. They were followed by Hotan (China), New Delhi and Jaunpur (UP), Faisalabad (Pakistan), Noida (UP), Bahawalpur (Pakistan), Peshawar (Pakistan) and Bagpat (UP).
“India’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 ug/m3 in 2021, ending a three-year trend of improving air quality. Its annual PM2.5 averages have now returned to pre-quarantine concentrations as measured in 2019,” the report stated.
Pointing out challenges, the report said air pollution is the second-biggest risk factor for disease and its economic cost is estimated to exceed $150 billion annually.