Delhi Ranks at Top of Most Polluted Cities in World Air Quality Report 2021

Indian capital is again in news and for all the wrong reasons. Reportedly, Delhi is the world’s most polluted capital, for the fourth year in a row, with a 14.6 percent increase in PM 2.5 concentrations in 2021. Released by Swiss firm IQAir, the World Air Quality Report analyzed real-time air quality data from tens of thousands of monitoring stations across the world.

The report covered 6,475 cities in 117 countries. It also noted that air quality in China has improved significantly in 2021. Beijing has witnessed a five-year trend of improved air quality, which has been credited to reduction in emissions, coal power plant activity and other high-emissions industries.

Bangladesh, Chad, Pakistan, Tajikstan and India are the top five countries on the list. The territories of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and New Caledonia have the cleanest air with 4.8, 4.5, and 3.8 μg/m³, respectively.

Delhi Ranks at Top of Most Polluted Cities in World Air Quality Report

Image: IQAir

Meanwhile, India’s average air pollution, which is measured in the lethal and microscopic PM2.5 pollutants, is 58.1 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³). The level is 10 times more than the air quality guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report read;

India also continues to feature prominently among the most polluted cities with 35 of the top 50 most polluted cities being in this country. India’s annual PM2.5 averages have returned to pre-quarantine concentrations as measured in 2019. Alarmingly, in 2021, none of the Indian cities met the prescribed WHO standards of 5 μg/m3.

63 Indian cities dominated the list of 100 most polluted places. Bhiwadi, the industrial town of Alwar district in Rajasthan, has ranked as the world’s most polluted place, leaving Delhi behind that has dropped to the number 4. Located on Delhi’s eastern border, Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad is at the second rank.

Unsurprisingly, ten of the top 15 most polluted cities are in India, most of them located in the vicinity of the national capital. All six metro cities in India, except Chennai, saw a rise in air pollution levels in 2021.

Also Read: Depressing Story of Delhi Choking on Air Pollution

The major air pollution sources in Delhi include vehicular emissions, coal-fired power plants, industrial waste, biomass combustion for cooking and the construction sector. In winters, pollution levels skyrocket amid stubble burning activities in neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.

Delhi Ranks at Top of Most Polluted Cities in World Air Quality Report 2021

Image: Down to Earth

The report specially mentioned the emissions from stubble burning, which is a politically sensitive issue. Several steps have been taken to reduce the burning of crop residue but all in vain. After the report was released, Indian National Congress called for overhaul of National Clean Air Programme.

Avinash Chanchal, the campaign manager at Greenpeace India sad that the IQAir’s recent data is a wake-up call for governments. He urged to switch to cleaner fuels and the promotion of renewable energy for transportation in a bid to reduce vehicular pollution. He also asserted the toxic impact of air pollution has on human health and the overall health of the environment.


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