India tops World Health Organization's air pollution list

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The new figures were released by the WHO along with the revelation that a staggering 9 out of 10 people around the world are still breathing polluted air, causing around 7 million deaths around the globe every year.

A new World Health Organization report said on Wednesday that 14 Indian cities were on its 2016 list of 15 with the highest levels of PM2.5 or particulate matter (PM) with a diametre of less than 2.5 micrometres.

Given that most of the polluted cities are located in and around Delhi and along the Indo-Gangetic plain, it is critical that the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are further sensitised to take up urgent action on cleaning air in cities under their jurisdiction.

The Indian cities marked in the report include Delhi, Varanasi, Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala, and Jodhpur.

The most recent air pollution data from the World Health Organization gives India a dubious lead.

This comes even as the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had recently claimed that air pollution levels improved in 2017 as compared to 2016.

Several Chinese cities were also listed in the report as highly polluted but the data for those places was four or five years old.

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Since being identified as one of the world's most polluted cities, the Indian capital has struggled to clean its air.

However, the Government has made serious efforts to deal with air pollution. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of deaths globally and in the region, and air pollution contributes significantly to NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer.

"We know there is a strong link between poor air quality and heart health with nearly six in ten global deaths (58%) related to outdoor air pollution caused by a heart attack or stroke".

Major sources of air pollution from particulate matter include inefficient use of energy by households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants. The average level of PM2.5 in Noida was recorded to be 103.4ug/m3, which was the highest among NCR towns.

Rural air pollution is carried from the big cities by wind, with lorries and other long-distance traffic also now thought to play a larger role than expected.

During these months, in addition to local emissions, there was a substantial contribution from regional sources, including smoke due to stubble burning in neighbouring states and dust from the Gulf countries, it said.

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