Posts Tagged ‘Pollution’

India has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities with New Delhi as the worst

May 9, 2014

The WHO has released the 2014 update of its Ambient Air Pollution database.

The database contains results of ambient (outdoor) air pollution monitoring from almost 1600 cities in 91 countries. Air quality is represented by annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5, i.e. particles smaller than 10 or 2.5 microns).

The database covers the period from 2008 to 2013, with the majority of values for the years 2011 and 2012. The primary sources of data include publicly available national/subnational reports and web sites, regional networks such as the Asian Clean Air Initiative and the European Airbase, and selected publications. The database aims to be representative for human exposure, and therefore primarily captures measurements from monitoring stations located in urban background, residential, commercial and mixed areas.

The world’s average PM10 levels by region range from 26 to 208 ug/m3, with a world’s average of 71 ug/m3.

India has the dubious distinction of having 6 of the ten worst polluted, 13 of the 20 worst polluted cities and 20 of the 50 most polluted. Needless to say New Delhi is the worst. Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur are the 4 worst polluted cities in the world. 

50 most polluted cities WHO 2014 (pdf)

Delhi’s preeminent position in the pollution stakes was also reported by the Yale 2014 Environmental Performance Index which I posted about in February. I wrote then:

Whether Delhi is worse or better than Beijing is irrelevant. The point is that Delhi is as bad as it is.

I visit Delhi 5 or 6 times every year and it has the worst air quality that I experience. It is dust particles in the main – and a lot of that is from the ubiquitous building rubble and  building materials lying in piles (some small and some large) all over the city. The diesel engine particulates have – I think – reduced after the introduction of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for taxis and autos but they build up every night when the long-distance trucks roll through the city (they are banned during the day).

But Delhi is essentially a huge building site. In new building projects (many for domestic dwellings), building materials (bricks, sand, cement, tiles, sewer pipes….) are all brought and dumped in open piles on the street long before any building actually commences. Even completed building projects leave behind their piles of sand and bricks and rubble on the street which are never cleaned up. If a road is dug up for any reason the remaining mud and rubble is never actually cleared up . it is usually just pushed to one side. The last mile syndrome applies and nothing ever gets finally or properly finished.

But the real issue is one of attitude and behaviour. .. 

Delhi’s atmosphere is what it is because the citizens of Delhi do not give any value to it being any better.

I travel to Delhi 5 or 6 times a year and can vouch for the muck and grime both in the air and on the ground. The problem is not one of money or of technology but of attitudes. The population of Delhi – on average – just does not give much value to the quality of the environment they live in. The politicians are followers rather than leaders and none have the courage to follow a vision of what Delhi could be like

The Indian General Election results are due out in a week.

Toilets before temples may win the day. 

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