New Delhi: The WHO global air pollution database released in Geneva early Wednesday morning reveals that India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations, with the worst being Kanpur.
Despite public outcry over severe air pollution, and both Centre and Delhi government taking up the issue, WHO’s database of more than 4,000 cities in 100 countries shows that Delhi’s pollution levels improved only marginally between 2010 and 2014 but started deteriorating again in 2015.
WHO recognises air pollution is a critical risk factor for non-communicable diseases. Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, data released by the WHO showed today.
The WHO data also said that nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.
“WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia,” the report said.
According to the report, more than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (including India), mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.
“Around 3 billion people — more than 40% of the world’s population — still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution,” it said.
“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.