In 2015, 90% of the total world population breathed unhealthy air, according to State of Global Air 2017 report. If you think it is only the low-income nations that are the hardest hit with polluted air, then you are wrong. 56% of the cities in high-income nations with a population of more than 100,000 residents do not meet the WHO air quality standards. In case of the low-income nations, the number increases to 98%.
As the quality of air is dipping from worse to worst, very soon the ambient particulate matter would become the major cause of all deaths happening in the world. In 2015, ambient particulate matter was ranked fifth as the major cause of deaths only after high blood pressure, smoking, high fasting plasma glucose, and high total cholesterol.
PM2.5 size particles in the air get all attention from researchers as they are very minute (one-thirtieth the size of a hair). These particles when inhaled enter your bloodstream and lungs to cause some serious health concerns.
Many still think New Delhi, the capital city of the largest democracy, is the most polluted city on earth. Things have changed in the last two years. New Delhi is not even the most polluted city in India. Beijing is not anywhere close. The capital city of China is now ranked 57. China has made great improvements in controlling air pollution in the recent years whereas India doesn’t seem to be much bothered about the situation. Air quality monitoring systems are 39 in number in India whereas China has 1500 such stations.
India has 22 of the total 50 most polluted cities in the world, China has 8, both Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia has 4 each under their belts.
A globalized economy has forced the developing nations to live under nightmarish environs.
Some bold, permanent measures are needed to tackle the situation, especially in North Africa and South Asia whereas governments adopt only some reactive measures when the levels go alarmingly high.
Below is a list of the most polluted cities in the world (by PM2.5 particulate matter.)
11. New Delhi, India
In November 2017, the AQI (Air Quality Index) readings hit the maximum of 999 in certain areas in New Delhi. During the same time, the Delhi government had declared a public health emergency urging all schools to remain shut and citizens to avoid staying outdoors for a longer duration. 1 of 3 children has their lungs function compromised. The government wakes up with some temporary measures when smog envelops the city.
Badarpur thermal power station in New Delhi produces 8% of the power and 80% to 90% of the particulate matter from its kind for its residents.10. Baoding, China (Yearly Average PM 2.5 level: 126)
This city in the north-eastern China in the Hebei province has seen good quality of air only for a period of 16 days in 2015. Under the Chinese initiative to introduce low-carbon zones in 2010, Boading was announced as a pilot in the project. Hence, the city became one of the major hubs for renewable energy in China. Yet, the quality of air poor.
The steam boilers powered by coal used in the neighboring villages are the major sources of polluted air in the city.
According to a WHO report, 1.7 million children die due to a polluted environment
9. Xingtai, China (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 128)
Three years back, Xintai was the most polluted city in China. The southern Hebei province city was a prominent city during the Shang dynasty two thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Irish Times reports that the air smells of petrol on a normal day. The abundance of coal in the region prompted some of the most polluting industries set foot on Xingtai.
8. Bamenda, Cameron (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 132)
Wikipedia says that Bamenda is a cool, hill station in Cameron. Air pollution here is still an unexplained phenomenon as there are no industries nearby the northwestern Cameron city. What looks like a smog happened nearly more than fifty years ago in Cameron but in Figuil which has a cement factory.
7. Raipur, India (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 144)
The capital of Chattisgarh has 12 lakh registered vehicles out of which more than 50% of them are more than 10 years old, according to a TOI report. Vehicular emission is the primary cause of pollution in the city accompanied by various other factors including industrial pollution, burning of biomass and construction activities.
However, the Central Pollution Control Board has submitted a report that suggests that the air quality in Raipur has considerably increased during 2014 to 2016.
6. Patna, India (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 149)
The biggest contributor to air pollution in the capital city of Bihar is the suspended particles matter. The rapid development seen by the city comes with the consequence of having a poor air quality. The state’s pollution control board’s recommendation to ban 15-year-old diesel vehicles in 2013 was implemented in 2016. Patna was listed as a non-attainment city in the year 2015 by Central Pollution Control Board of India.
5. Jubail, Saudi Arabia (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 152)
In an effort to diversify its economy, Saudi Arabian government focused a lot on its industrial sector. Jubail industrial complex is the largest in the middle eastern region and also has the world’s fourth largest petrochemical complex. The land in this region was rented out at a rate of $0.02 per square meter per year (as per a research article of 1988).
4. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 156)
Vehicular emissions, industrial activities and the sandstorms ( as Saudi Arabia is located in the Arabian desert) worsen the quality of air in the capital city of Saudi Arabian kingdom. Oil refineries, power stations, and cement plants also add to the city’s air pollution woes.
3. Allahabad, India (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 170)
In 2015, Allahabad had a good quality of air not a single day out of the 263 days monitored. According to an IIT Delhi report in 2012, the Indo-Gangetic plain has higher levels of sulfur and nitrogen oxides that lead to an increased level of particulate matter. The reasons for air pollution are more than one. Large scale industrial activities, increasing vehicles on roads, deforestation, biomass burning etc. The change in wind pattern in the Indo-Gangetic plain during winter season also brings the emissions from the power plants fuelled by coal.
2. Gwalior, India (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 176)
Surprisingly, one of the counter-magnet cities to the south of Delhi currently has the highest level of PM2.5 in India, also the second highest in the world. Environmental expert Dr. Alok Sharma tells Hindustan Times that the reason is the absence of greenery in the city as people lived so close to each other for security. Increasing population and vehicular emission are also cited as some major reasons.
1. Zabol, Iran (Yearly Average PM2.5 level: 217)
Zabol, known as ‘120 days of wind’ characterized by its dust storms, is the city from which the first form of animation was introduced to the world. A pottery dated 5000 years back shows a moving goat, reports The Guardian.
Hamoun, one the city’s nearest wetland has dried aggravating the condition. People have evacuated nearly 300 villages and some 700,000 employment opportunities have been lost in the region. The air pollution in the region has no direct connection with industries, unlike most other polluted cities.
11 Most polluted cities by PM10 levels:
11. Hamad Town, Bahrain
10. Gwalior, India
9. Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan
8. Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia
7. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
6. Aba, Nigeria
5. Kaduna, Nigeria
4. Rawalpindi, Pakistan
3. Zabol, Iran
2. Peshawar, Pakistan
- Onitsha, Nigeria