The Most Polluted Cities of India: Key Statistics

In India, air pollution is a serious issue. The major sources that cause excessive pollution are fuelwood and biomass burning, fuel adulteration, vehicle emission and traffic congestion.

Realising how serious this issue is, India’s Central Pollution Control Board regularly monitors four air pollutants:

  1. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  2. Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
  3. Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM)
  4. Respirable Particulate Matter (PM10)

They are monitored at 308 operating stations in 115 cities and towns in 25 states and four union territories of India. It is carried out for 24 hours with four-hourly testing for gaseous pollutants and eight-hourly testing for particulate matter. This is done twice a week, 104 observations in a year.

The following image shows pollution statistics gathered by the WHO report in 2014, the top 20 most polluted cities of the world, with India holding 13 of these positions:

Image: India TV

Delhi has six times more airborne particulate matter than what is considered safe. The other major Indian cities with high level of pollutants are: Patna, Gwalior, and Raipur. The WHO report was based on reviewing the presence of harmful gases including Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide and Sulphur Dioxide. Small airborne particles were also kept in mind, among the most detrimental of these pollutants.

The World Health Organization states that fine particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM 2.5) should not be more than ten micrograms per cubic metre.

Delhi had 153 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic metre; Patna had 149 micrograms; Gwalior had 144 micrograms and Raipur 134 micrograms. Other cities that exceeded the advised level: Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Firozabad, Amritsar and Ludhiana.

If you are exposed to particulate matter over a long period of time, it can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases including asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks. The Global burden of disease study that was published in 2013 found that outdoor air pollution was the fifth largest killer in India, with an estimated 620,000 early deaths because of air pollution-related diseases in 2010.

A study of non-smokers discovered that Indians have 30% lower lung function than Europeans. In 1981, there was an Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act passed to attempt air pollution regulation which brought a measure of improvements, but in 2013, the Environmental Performance Index still ranked India as no. 155 out of 178 countries.

It is suggested that the major cause of increased pollution is because of the increased use of car transport. But with economic development and regulatory reforms of the last 15 years, progress has been made to improve the air quality of India.

It is our duty to do all we possibly can to control the level of pollution before this problem gets out of our reach.


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