Delhi most polluted city of India; other North Indian cities make it to list

In 2020, 22 out of the top 30 most polluted cities in the world were from India. Climate change too played a role in increasing air pollution. Hotan in China’s northwest ranked as the world’s most polluted cities largely due to sandstorms exacerbated by climate change. These were among the highlights of the 2020 

World Air Quality report by Switzerland based air quality technology company IQAir that was released on Tuesday. 
Air quality improved in 84% of all monitored countries due to Covid-19 related lockdowns in 2020, the report found. Some of the major improvements compared to the year 2019 were seen in Paris (-17%), London (-16%), Seoul (-16%), Delhi (-15%), Chicago (-13%) and Beijing (-11%).

“While many cities recorded temporary improvements in air quality due to lockdowns, the health impact of burning fossil fuels remained severe. Unfortunately, Delhi continued to be the most polluted capital city in the world in 2020,” said Avinash Chanchal, climate campaigner, Greenpeace India. 

Only 24 of the 106 monitored countries met the annual guidelines for PM2.5 set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Air quality improves

Nearly 63% of Indian cities saw improvements in air quality when compared to 2019 levels but the pollution still remained high across the country. Air pollution is estimated to have cost the country’s economy $36.8 billion in 2019. 

In China 86% of the cities experienced cleaner air compared to 2019. Despite the improvements, Chinese residents are still exposed to PM2.5 levels that are three times more than the WHO annual guidelines, the report said. 

"Many parts of the world experienced unprecedented, but short-lived, improvements in air quality in 2020, as restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic caused a steep drop in fossil fuel consumption,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), who also contributed to the report. 

South Asia is most polluted region

South Asia is the most polluted region in the world with Bangladesh, India and Pakistan together home to 42 of the 50 most polluted cities. Many countries in South East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and South America continue to lack the equipment and expertise to monitor and report air pollution, according to the report.

The report is based on the measurements of the PM2.5 data from 106 countries measured using ground-based monitoring stations. Of the data sources 66.6% were operated by governmental agencies, while the others were managed by local residents, non-profit organizations and companies.

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