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Mumbai is now the fourth most polluted mega city in the world, says WHO

Mumbai surpassed pollution levels of Beijing (92 µg/m3), China, which is the fifth most polluted globally

mumbai Updated: May 02, 2018 15:25 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
The data for Mumbai clearly indicates that even though the city has the advantage of sea breeze, it continues to face a pollution crisis.(HT PHOTO)

The financial capital of India, which ranked fifth globally as the most polluted mega city in 2016, has now been declared as the fourth most polluted mega city in the world, according to latest data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

For particulate matter - annual PM10 (pollutant particles of the size of 10 microns, which can easily enter the lungs and cause health ailments) levels, Mumbai recorded 104 microgram per cubic metre (µg/m3) for the year 2016 which is over five times WHO’s safety limit of 20 µg/m3 and almost double the Indian safety limit of 60 µg/m3. While Delhi topped the rankings with PM10 levels at 292µg/m, making the national capital the most polluted megacity globally, Cairo, Egypt, and Dhaka, Bangladesh ranked second and third at 284µg/m3 and 147µg/m3.

Mumbai surpassed pollution levels of Beijing (92 µg/m3), China, which is the fifth most polluted globally. WHO calculated PM10 levels for 10 mega-cities of more than 14 million habitants for the last available year between the period 2010 and 2016.

For PM2.5 (small pollutant particles of the size 2.5 micron, much more dangerous than PM10) levels, Mumbai recorded 68µg/m3 in 2015 and 64µg/m3 in 2016, both over six times WHO’s safety limit of 10gm3 and one-and-half times more than annual Indian limit of 40µg/m3.

On Tuesday, WHO released its 2018 data on air pollution levels for 4,300 cities in over 100 countries with PM10 and PM2.5, as well the estimated health effects from both ambient (outdoor) and indoor pollution its effects. The latest analysis of particulate matter in the air showed about 90% of people across the world are exposed to bad air, which was linked with 7 million deaths in 2016. WHO also found that in 2016, ambient air pollution led to 4.2 million deaths while another 3.8 million deaths were due to indoor air pollution.

WHO recorded particulate matter for 859 cities across the world and from India, the data presented PM10 and PM2.5 figures for 32 cities for 2016. The study found that 14 of the top most polluted cities worldwide were from India. Since WHO does not provide city-wise rankings in their data, non-governmental orgnanisation Greenpeace crunched the data for the country and found that for PM2.5 in 2016, Mumbai ranked 63rd globally and ranked 18 among the 32 Indian cities. For PM10, Mumbai ranked 90 globally in 2016 and 17 among the 32 Indian cities. Other cities from Maharashtra, such as Pune and Navi Mumbai, ranked 133 and 207 for PM2.5 in 2016 and 133 and 268 for PM10 for the same year.

Nagpur was ranked 24 for PM2.5 pollution globally with 84µg/m3, which is more than double the annual Indian safe limit.

“The data for Mumbai clearly indicates that even though the city has the advantage of sea breeze, it continues to face a pollution crisis. While the centre might have released its National Clean Air Programme, which merely deals with monitoring air pollution, there are hardly any steps being taken for implementation on ground. We have the example of Beijing and other cities from China, which have actively worked towards reducing pollution,” said Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, NGO Greenpeace India.

“For Maharashtra, the WHO data concurs what we had found, that 6.7 million children under 5 years of age live in districts exceeding the national ambient air quality standards.”

In the earlier assessment for Mumbai (2008 to 2015) released in 2016 by WHO, HT had reported that PM10 levels for Mumbai were 136µg/m recorded in 2014 and 117µg/m in 2015, which was based on data provided by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) from its monitoring stations in Sion and Bandra. However, WHO’s new database collates data from 10 stations from the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) and three MPCB stations with a revised figure for PM10 levels in 2015 in Mumbai at 105 µg/m3.

Experts said the new data calls for urgent intervention by the state and central authorities regarding air pollution as a serious threat in India. “When top mega cities of the world are compared based on the new WHO database, even Mumbai, a coastal city, ranks 4th with PM2.5 levels 1.7 times the standards and PM10 levels over six times the standard, it is surely not acceptable,” said Anumita Roy Choudhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi. “Megacities are expected to have more resources and air quality management capability to implement effective air quality control measures to comply with the clean air standards.”

Meanwhile for Maharashtra, WHO recorded PM2.5 and PM10 levels for a total of 11 cities and pollution levels at all 11 cities were above the WHO safe limit (see box).


“The WHO data in previous years looked at air monitoring data from just two stations, which led to high figures. The year on year data indicates a drop in both PM10 and PM2.5 levels, and almost close to the national safe limits. However, our 11 air monitoring stations will be inaugurated within a week, and every district in the state will be getting air quality monitoring stations in less than six months. Based on these two developments, our air quality management plan will show drastic decline in pollution levels within a year,” said P Anbalagan, member secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.

First Published: May 02, 2018 00:30 IST