India was the world’s eighth most polluted country in 2022, dropping from fifth place the previous year.
Air pollution is a serious issue that affects the health and well-being of millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, the problem is particularly acute in India, where 39 cities have recently been ranked among the world’s 50 most polluted.
The rankings were published in a report by IQAir, a Swiss-based air quality monitoring company, in partnership with Greenpeace. The report looked at levels of PM2.5 – small particles in the air that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause a range of health problems, including respiratory illnesses and heart disease.
According to the report, the Indian city of Ghaziabad was ranked as the world’s most polluted city, with an average PM2.5 level of 106.6 micrograms per cubic metre of air. This is more than ten times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended safe limit of 10 micrograms per cubic metre.
Other Indian cities in the top ten most polluted included Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, and Lucknow. In fact, India was home to 22 of the top 30 most polluted cities, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and China also featuring prominently on the list.
The report highlights the urgent need for action to tackle air pollution in India and around the world. The effects of air pollution are particularly acute in developing countries, where many people live in poverty and lack access to clean air and water.
The health impacts of air pollution are significant and wide-ranging. Exposure to high levels of PM2.5 has been linked to a range of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as increased rates of cancer and premature death. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.
In addition to the health impacts, air pollution also has a significant economic impact. It can lead to lost productivity due to sick days and reduced cognitive function, as well as increased healthcare costs. It can also damage crops and reduce the yield of food production.
So what can be done to tackle air pollution in India and around the world? There are a number of strategies that can be employed, including:
1. Reducing emissions from industry and transport: One of the main sources of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels for energy and transportation. By reducing our reliance on these sources of energy, we can reduce the amount of pollution that is generated. This can be achieved through policies such as carbon pricing, subsidies for clean energy, and incentives for electric vehicles.
2. Improving public transportation: By providing safe, reliable, and affordable public transportation options, we can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and therefore reduce emissions. This can be achieved through investment in public transportation infrastructure and the promotion of active transportation such as cycling and walking.
3. Encouraging cleaner fuels: In many parts of the world, traditional fuels such as coal and wood are still used for cooking and heating. By promoting the use of cleaner fuels such as natural gas or electricity, we can reduce the amount of pollution that is generated.
4. Planting trees and other vegetation: Trees and other vegetation can help to absorb pollutants from the air and provide other environmental benefits such as reducing soil erosion and providing habitat for wildlife.
5. Improving indoor air quality: Many people in developing countries rely on solid fuels such as coal and wood for cooking and heating, which can lead to high levels of indoor air pollution. By promoting cleaner cooking and heating technologies, such as efficient stoves and clean-burning fuels, we can improve indoor air quality and reduce the health impacts of air pollution.
In conclusion, the report by IQAir highlights the urgent need for action to tackle air pollution in India. The high levels of pollution in Indian cities have serious implications for public health and the environment. The government, industry, and citizens need to work together to find effective solutions to this problem. Unless we act now, the situation is only going to get worse, and the health and well-being of millions of Indians will continue to be at risk.