The problem of air pollution in India is largely focused around the national capital, Delhi, high concentrations of PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) are recorded in the entire Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) , especially during the winter season.( Biplov Bhuyan/ Hindustan Times)
The problem of air pollution in India is largely focused around the national capital, Delhi, high concentrations of PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) are recorded in the entire Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) , especially during the winter season.( Biplov Bhuyan/ Hindustan Times)

22 of 30 most polluted cities in India: Report

  • Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh was the most polluted with the average annual PM 2.5 levels of 106.6ug/m3, making it the second most polluted city in the world after Hotan in China (110.2 ug/m3).
By Soumya Pillai, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 17, 2021 02:43 AM IST

22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, including 14 in the top 15, are in India, an air quality report released by a Swiss organisation, IQAir said. This includes the second most polluted city, Ghaziabad in the national capital region.

The report, released globally on Tuesday, said that while India saw a “marked improvement” in air quality last year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on activities imposed on account of it, the levels of pollution were still “dangerously high”.

While India saw a “marked improvement” in air quality last year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on activities imposed on account of it, the levels of pollution were still “dangerously high”.(HT Illustration )
While India saw a “marked improvement” in air quality last year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on activities imposed on account of it, the levels of pollution were still “dangerously high”.(HT Illustration )


“Every city in India observed air quality improvements compared to 2018, while 63% saw direct improvements against 2019. However, India continues to feature prominently at the top of the most polluted cities ranking with 22 of the top 30 most polluted cities globally,” the report said.

While the focus of the governments in tackling the problem of air pollution in India is largely focused around the national capital, Delhi, high concentrations of PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) are recorded in the entire Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) , especially during the winter season. That’s when levels of PM 2.5 from local sources such as vehicles, industrial emissions, construction and open burning are complemented by external contributors such as stubble burning and the unfavourable weather conditions, leading to the accumulation of pollutants closer to the surface.

According to the rankings, Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh was the most polluted with the average annual PM 2.5 levels of 106.6ug/m3, making it the second most polluted city in the world after Hotan in China (110.2 ug/m3).The next 13 ranks were also held by cities in India.

The other Indian cities on the list are: Bulandshahr, Bisrakh Jalalpur (both in Uttar Pradesh), Bhiwadi (Rajasthan), Noida, Greater Noida, Kanpur, Lucknow (all in UP), Delhi, Faridabad (Haryana), Meerut (UP), Jind, Hisar (both in Haryana), Agra, Muzaffarnagar (both UP), Fatehabad, Bandhwari , Gurugram , Yamuna Nagar, Rohtak (all Haryana), Muzaffarpur (UP), and Dharuhera (Haryana). Kashgar, also in China, is ranked 15. Manikganj in Bangladesh follows in 16th rank.

Other foreign cities that made it to the list were Lahore and Bahawalpur in Pakistan, in the 18th and 19th rank, Dhaka in Bangladesh ranking 23, South Tangerang in Indonesia in the 25th spot.

1.7 million deaths in India were attributable to air pollution in 2019, which was 18% of the total deaths in the country according to India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative, a scientific paper on the health and economic impact of air pollution published last December in Lancet Planetary Health.

“The global burden of disease has time and again highlighted the massive health burden of air pollution on health and how it leads to premature mortality. I think its time that new technologies such as low cost air quality sensors should be used creatively to assess where air pollution exposure has reduced.... Such studies should cover rural areas and areas impacted by poverty...,” said Kalpana Balakrishnan, the director of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Centre for Advanced Research on Air Quality, Climate and Health.

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