Delhi named world’s most polluted capital for third straight year

India emerged as the world’s third most polluted country after Bangladesh and Pakistan

Stuti Mishra
in Delhi
Tuesday 16 March 2021 12:50
<p>India Gate in New Delhi during the high levels of smog in January 2021</p>

India Gate in New Delhi during the high levels of smog in January 2021

Delhi has been named the world’s most polluted capital city for the third year in a row while India is home to 35 of the 50 most polluted cities in the world, according to IQAir’s World Air Quality report.

The Swiss group measures the air quality levels of cities based on the lung damaging airborne particles known as PM2.5. The yearly average of the PM2.5 in a cubic meter of air is measured in order to gather the data.

Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to deadly diseases, including cancer and cardiac problems.

In the year 2020, Indian national capital Delhi’s average annual concentration of PM2.5 in a cubic meter of air was 84.1, the report said. These levels were witnessed despite an 11 per cent reduction from last year in pollution due to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

India emerged as the world’s third most polluted country after Bangladesh and Pakistan. "Air pollution in India is still dangerously high," the report said.

Read more:

In 2020, South Asia endured some of the world’s worst air quality on record, it said. Together, Bangladesh, China, India, and Pakistan share 49 of the 50 most polluted cities globally.

The levels in Delhi were more than double the level of neighbouring China’s capital Beijing, which averaged 37.5 during the year, making it the 14th most polluted city in the world.

Last year, Delhi’s 20 million residents, who breathed some of the cleanest air on record in summer months due to the lockdown curbs, battled toxic air in winter, following a sharp increase in farm fire incidents in the neighbouring state of Punjab.

As the burning of crop stubble peaked, Delhi’s PM2.5 levels averaged 144 micrograms per cubic metre in November and 157 micrograms per cubic metre in December, exceeding the World Health Organisation’s annual exposure guideline by more than 14 times, it said.

Air pollution caused an estimated 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in 2020, according to a recent study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Analysis and IQAir.

India’s major source of pollution include transportation, construction, and waste burning.

Around the world, Covid-19 lockdown curbs resulted in decrease of human related emissions and pollution levels, however, they were offset partially offset by “extreme air pollution events” like wildfires and dust storms, which are linked to the worsening climate crisis and unpredictable weather worldwide.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in