What they don’t tell you about the air in India

The Indian Medical Association previously likened breathing the air in India to smoking 50 cigarettes a day Source: Shutterstock.

IN 2014, Indian capital New Delhi was ranked the most polluted city in the world by World Health Organization (WHO). Two years later, the city recorded its highest pollution level in six years.

Although WHO’s latest report indicates that New Delhi is no longer the most polluted city in the world, India has other things to worry about.

But the country now has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations.

What is PM2.5 and why should you care?

PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3 percent the diameter of a human hair.

Particles in this category are so small that they can only be detected with an electron microscope.

Because these particles are so small and light, they tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles. This increases the chances of humans and animals inhaling them.

They are also able to bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs and also the circulatory system.

xposure to these particles can trigger or worsen chronic diseases such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems, as well as premature death from heart and lung diseases.

A pedestrian walking on the foggy road in India. Source: Shutterstock.

WHO’s global air pollution database studied over 4,000 cities in 100 countries.

The release found that the worst hit city in terms of bad air quality is Kanpur, a large industrial city on the banks of the Ganges River. Kanpur’s PM 2.5 annual average was 173 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) – three times the national safe level at 60ug/m3.

Here are the Indian cities in the top 15 by ranking:

  1. Kanpur
  2. Faridabad
  3. Varanasi
  4. Gaya
  5. Patna
  6. Delhi
  7. Lucknow
  8. Agra
  9. Muzaffarpur
  10. Srinagar
  11. Gurgaon
  12. Jaipur
  13. Patiala
  14. Jodhpur

The 15th city is Kuwait.

In November 2017, New Delhi residents posted pictures and videos on social media of bad visibility due to pollution. In some places, it had decreased to just a few feet.

India’s poor air quality has not only affected traffic conditions and flights, but also the country’s pride and joy, the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal has turned from white to yellow, to brown and green. Source: Shutterstock.

The iconic Unesco World Heritage Site’s white marble walls are reportedly turning brown and green due to harmful pollutants in the air.

Is it irreversible?

There was a time when Beijing was accounted for similarly alarming levels of air pollution. The Chinese city is now ranked 46th.

The Indian Medical Association previously likened breathing the air in India to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, but it’s not too late to turn that around.

Currently, anti-pollution measures such as taxing trucks passing through New Delhi, limiting car use, and banning firecrackers are in place.

Also, Bangalore-based Ola, an online transportation network company, plans to roll out 10,000 electric three-wheeled rickshaws and a million battery-powered vehicles in three years.

A move that may help lower air pollution levels.