Based on air quality data from 6,475 cities in 117 countries, the report stated that 63 of the 100 cities with the worst air quality were in India.
The air pollution levels in India went from bad to worse in 2021, bringing an end to a three-year trajectory of improving air quality, as per the World Air Quality Report released by IQAir, a Swiss firm, on March 22. According to the report, India is the fifth most polluted nation among 117 nations, regions, and territories worldwide.
The country’s annual average PM2.5 levels went up to 58.1 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) in 2021, going back to its pre-quarantine concentrations estimated in 2019. The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that average annual readings of small and hazardous airborne particles called PM2.5 need to be no more than five micrograms per cubic meter after making changes to its guidelines during 2021.
India had 11 out of the 15 most polluted cities in South and Central Asia during 2021. What is more concerning is that no city in India met the WHO air quality guideline of 5 µg/m3. Furthermore, 48 per cent of the country’s cities exceeded 50 µg/m3 in or above ten times the WHO guideline last year.
“Air pollution has a massive impact on humans in India. It is the second biggest risk factor for disease, and the economic cost of air pollution is estimated to exceed 150 billion dollars annually,” it stated.
The Environment Ministry enacted the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in 2019, which seeks to reduce particulate matter (PM) concentrations by 20 to 30 per cent by 2024 in all identified non-attainment cities, implement a city, regional, and state-specific clean air action plan, increase air quality monitoring, as well as to conduct source apportionment studies.