In 2020, all Indian cities that were monitored observed air quality improvements compared to 2018 while 63% saw improvements over 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.
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Delhi, with an average annual PM2.5 concentration of 84.1 micrograms per cubic metre, topped the list of the most polluted capital cities. It was followed by Dhaka ( Bangladesh) with annual average PM2.5 concentration at 77.1.
Thirteen of the 15 most polluted cities in the world were from north India, with Ghaziabad at second spot, followed by Bulandshahr. Nine of these cities are in the National Capital Region and as many as eight are in Uttar Pradesh. The report adjudged the Chinese city of Hotan as the most polluted in the world in 2020.
‘Health, economic costs of bad air remain severe’
The global cities ranking report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries, which is measured by groundbased monitoring stations, most of which are operated by government agencies.
The report stated that India showed an overall improvement in several cities, with 63% reporting direct improvements over 2019 averages. All cities whose pollution levels increased in 2020 still show an overall downward trend from 2018 and earlier.
Giving an Indian context to the global IQAir report, Avinash Chanchal, climate campaigner at Greenpeace India said, “While many cities including Delhi have recorded marginal improvements in air quality due to lockdowns, the health and economic cost of air pollution remains severe. It is pertinent that governments prioritise sustainable and clean energy sources, and the cities need to encourage low-cost, active and carbon-neutral mobility choices such as walking, cycling and accessible public transport.”
He added that speeding up the transition to clean energy and clean transport not only saves lives but also dramatically reduces healthcare-related costs.
CEO of IQAir Frank Hammes, said, “The year 2020 brought an unexpected dip in air pollution. In 2021, we will likely see an increase in air pollution due to human activities again. We hope this report will highlight that urgent action is both possible and necessary to combat air pollution, which remains the world’s greatest environmental health threat.”