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WHO report: 14 Indian cities most polluted in the world

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recent report on air pollution out in Geneva, as compared to the previous years India has shown improvement in 2018.


  • The World Health Organization has concluded that 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are located in India.
  • The worst city is Kanpur with a Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic meter, followed by Faridabad, Varanasi, and Gaya.
  • The most affected city is Kanpur  with a Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic meter, followed by Faridabad, Varanasi, and Gaya.
  • Other cities with high levels of PM 2.5 include Delhi, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur. Mumbai is the world’s fourth most polluted megacity.
  • Other cities with high levels of PM 2.5 include Delhi, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur. Mumbai is the world’s fourth most polluted megacity.
  • National Capital: The report indicated that Delhi is placed at number 6 with an annual average PM 2.5 concentrations of 143 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016.
  • Financial Capital: Mumbai is the world’s fourth most polluted megacity.

    Most polluted Mega cities of the world compared to PM 10 levels

The World Health Organization’s collected annual mean concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) includes pollutants- sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which pose the greatest risks to human health.


In terms of improvement, Chinese cities are doing well. In 2016, only four Chinese cities- Baoding, Hengshui, Xingtai and Anyang were in the top 20 compared to 14 Chinese cities, including Beijing, in 2013’s top 20.

Delhi and Beijing are compared due to their high air pollution levels. However, WHO’s report shows that Beijing’s air pollution levels have been consistently reducing from 2013 onwards.


Increasing death rates: The report indicated that 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe polluted air and around 7 million people die every year because of outdoor and household air pollution. In 2016, ambient air pollution alone caused nearly 4.2 million deaths. Nearly, 3.8 million deaths occurred due to air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies.

Diseases: The air pollution is mainly responsible for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter of all adult deaths from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and from lung cancer.


PM 2.5: In the context of air pollution, CPCB data based on Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) indicates that the annual average PM 2.5 concentration in the year 2016 as 134 micrograms per cubic meter and as 125 micrograms per cubic meter in the year 2017.

PM 10: The figure for PM 10 was 289 micrograms per cubic meter in the year 2016 and 268 micrograms per cubic meter in the year 2017.

Improvement: Even PM 10 levels have come down in the year 2017 against 2016. The improvement in PM concentration in Delhi has happened in spite of episodic events in two successive years in November 2016 and November 2017.

During these months of the year, in addition to local emissions, there was a substantial contribution from regional sources, including smoke due to stubble burning in neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab, and dust from Gulf countries.


BS-VI: The government has played a vital role and made ‘serious’ efforts to deal with air pollution, including leap-frogging from BS-IV to BS-VI.

Action Points: The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has taken important measures in the matter. In 2016, all non-attainment cities were given a set of 42 action points for improving on air quality. As a follow-up, 94 non-attainment cities were also asked to prepare detailed action plans for improving upon air quality depending on their local conditions.\

GRAP: CPCB has formulated Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to improve air quality in Delhi. In addition to this, CPCB also organized seven workshops at various locations in different states.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP): The NCAP was also launched and this was preceded by Clean Air Programme in Delhi to sensitize the public in general and implementing agencies in particular.

Others: Other measures include, a comprehensive action plan by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, ban on petcoke in Delhi and NCR, strict surveillance over coal-fired plants, strict action against construction activities, regular field surveillance by CPCB teams, augmentation of air quality monitoring stations in Delhi and NCR, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), launch of mobile application SAMEER for grievance redressal, coordinate action at national-level through a high-level task force in the PMO and others.


The area to be focused: Most of the polluted areas are located in and around Delhi, and along with Indo-Gangetic plain, it is critical for the state government of the concerned states to take up urgent action on cleaning air in cities under their jurisdiction.

Treating the source: The major sources of air pollution include inefficient use of energy by households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, coal-fired power plants, waste burning, and deforestation. The major focus should be on effective controlling of these sources of air pollution.

Strict action plan & strict implementation: To check the national public health crisis, some serious action plan should be formulated and strict and effective implementation must be ensured.


Air pollution has always been a great cause of concern for all. It is motivating that the pollution levels in the cities like Delhi are showing signs of improvement. Government’s efforts along with Apex court’s interventions and active participation of various environmentalists and NGOs are showing results. To further improve the condition, every citizen has to play his/her part. Small efforts like Carpooling, use of Public transport systems, cycling and walking to short distances, periodic pollution control checkups of vehicles and disposal of old vehicles along with increasing and maintaining green patches in the urban land use can make a huge difference in the urban environmental conditions.

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