Study Material | Test Series
Drishti IAS
call1800-121-6260 / 011-47532596
Drishti The Vision Foundation
(A unit of VDK Eduventures Pvt. Ltd.)
prelims Test Series 2019
WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database; 10 Indian Cities in Worst 20
May 14, 2016

According to the latest urban air quality database of the WHO, the Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, more than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.

  • 98% of cities in low-and middle income countries with more than 100000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%.

  • In the past two years, the database—now covering 3000 cities in 103 countries—has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

  • As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

  • Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark.

Global Urban Air Pollution Trends: WHO was able to compare a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013.

PM10 and PM2.5 include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which penetrate deep into the lungs and into the cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health. Data was then analysed to develop regional trends.

Key Trends 2008-2013

  • Global urban air pollution levels increased by 8%, despite improvements in some regions.

  • In general, urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.

  • The highest urban air pollution levels were experienced in low-and middle-income countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, with annual mean levels often exceeding 5-10 times WHO limits, followed by low-income cities in the Western Pacific Region.

  • In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution has increased by more than 5% in more than two-thirds of the cities.

  • In the African Region urban air pollution data remains very sparse, however available data revealed particulate matter (PM) levels above the median. The database now contains PM measurements for more than twice as many cities than previous versions.

Reducing the Toll on Human Health: Ambient air pollution, made of high concentration of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health—causing more than 3 million premature deaths worldwide every year.

  • Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health. At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.

  • Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

  • More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low- and middle-income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than 5% in five years.

  • Reducing industrial smokestack emissions, increasing use of renewable power sources, like solar and wind, and prioritizing rapid transit, walking and cycling

WHO’s Air quality guidelines offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for key air pollutants that pose health risks. The guidelines indicate that by reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution from 70 to 20 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m), air pollution-related deaths could be reduced by roughly 15%.

The WHO urban air quality database builds on well-established, public air quality monitoring systems as a source of reliable data in different parts of the world. National efforts to create operational and representative air quality monitoring systems should be strongly encouraged and supported.

Key Findings of the Report

  • Urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.

  • Highest urban air pollution levels were experienced in low-and middle-income countries in Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, with annual mean levels often exceeding 5-10 times WHO limits, followed by low-income cities in the Western Pacific Region.

  • In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution increased by more than 5 per cent in more than two-thirds of the cities.
  • More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low and middle-income countries reduced air pollution levels by more than 5 per cent in five years.

4 Indian Cities in Worst 10

  • India has four of the 10 cities in the world with the worst air pollution. India faces a ‘huge challenge’, many countries are so bad that they have no monitoring system and cannot be included in its ranking.

  • The dirtiest air was recorded at Zabol in Iran, which suffers from months of dust storms in the summer, and which clocked a so-called PM2.5 measure of 217.

  • The next pair were Indian, Gwalior, Allahabad, followed by Riyadh and Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia, then two more Indian cities, Patna and Raipur.

  • India's capital New Delhi was the survey's 11th worst city, measured by the amount of particulate matter under 2.5 micrograms found in every cubic metre of air. Delhi had an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122. New Delhi was ranked worst in 2014 with a PM2.5 reading of 153. It has since tried to tackle its toxic air by limiting the use of private cars on the road for short periods.

10 Indian Cities in Worst 20

  • Half of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. The Capital is no longer the world’s most polluted city, dropping to 11th position with smaller towns galloping past Delhi to grab second and third spot.

  • The top spot is taken by the Iranian city of Zabol that falls in the middle of a dust bowl. Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh take the second and third spot, respectively.

  • The report showed India’s upcoming towns and cities were grappling with toxic air, possibly because of limited government intervention and increasing vehicular congestion.

  • Uttar Pradesh had four of the world’s 20 most polluted cities. Other than Allahabad, the other Utar Pradesh cities in the top 20 are Kanpur (15), Firozabad (17) and Lucknow (18).

  • Bihar’s capital Patna is 6th, Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur 7th, Punjab towns of Ludhiana and Khanna are 12th and 16th respectively.

  • Uttar Pradesh has largest number of polluted cities followed by Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The WHO categorised air pollution as the sixth biggest cause of deaths in India, triggering an alarm with studies showing breathing ailments were on the rise in Indian cities.

India’s pollution watchdog data for the last 15 years show mounting air pollution in smaller cities such as Gwalior, Allahabad, Kanpur, Jodhpur, Ludhiana and Bhopal has outpaced that in big metro cities.


Helpline Number : 87501 87501
To Subscribe Newsletter and Get Updates.

http://www.drishtiias.com/upsc-current-affairs-article-WHO-Global-Urban-Ambient-Air-Pollution-Database-10-Indian-Cities-in-Worst-20