With technological advancement we have a new gadget or a new automobile at our disposition every now and then. Had it not been for industrial revolution we would not have had the luxury of using these gadgets. But as always there is a price to pay for everything. Yes definitely our lives have become easier but the expense at which the modernization is achieved is great. While on one hand while this never ending quest leads to further development, on the other it causes an equal number of problems. We are recklessly utilizing the non-renewable resources available for making urbanization a possibility but in our zeal we forget the side effects. The ecosystem is undergoing rapid changes because of pollution, giving rise to problems such as global warming and ozone depletion. The air quality in major cities is becoming increasingly toxic. Automobiles and industries are belching out poisonous gases as well as particulate matter (PM) into the atmosphere. Fine particles suspended in the air of the thickness of 10-2.5 micrometers in diameter are regarded as the most damaging. These 20 cities according to the analysis by WHO have critically high levels of PM2.5 present in the air.
Over the past decade there has been an increase in the cases of cardiopulmonary and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. It is time aggressive steps are taken to abate the impending doom.
With the annual mean PM2.5 concentrations as high as 153 ug/m3, the Indian capital city has got the sirens blaring for all the wrong reasons. With approximately 8.5 million registered vehicles, the residents are exposed to highly toxic air which has disturbing proportions of particulate matter such as nitrogen, sulphur, carbon and even metal compounds. The rapid urbanization occurring in the region has also aggravated the condition further. To add to the woes, the current government policy is inadequate for curbing the alarming levels of pollution. Also the high CNG prices are proving to be a big deterrent in the clean fuel program.
The city which once took pride in hoisting one of the world’s oldest universities is again making news but this time for a totally different reason. According to the WHO report, Patna is the second most polluted city in the world, with an average PM2.5 concentration of 149ug/m3. According to city officials, almost 70% of the air pollutants are contributed by vehicular exhausts. To tackle the issue, the state government is planning to implement three new air pollution monitoring systems and ensure strict compliance with anti-pollution laws.
Literally the Heart of Incredible India, Gwalior is touted as the tourist capital of Madhya Pradesh. By the end of 20th century the city had evolved as a metropolis in central India. The rapid urbanization and failure to implement corrective measures has contributed to an annual mean PM2.5 concentration of 114 ug/m3. The PM10 and NO2 concentrations in the air have also reached startling proportions. The WHO report of 2014 has ranked Gwalior 3rd, in the list of top twenty polluted cities.
Featuring fourth in the list is another Indian city, Raipur. Naturally endowed with minerals, the city plays a crucial role in the industrial sector. The 134 ug/m3 of annual average density of PM2.5 particles is attributed to the flurry of aluminum, steel, coal and power industries that have come up in the last decade.
The former capital city of Karachi is also one of the most busiest and populous city in Pakistan. Apart from vehicular and industrial exhaust, open burning of garbage and house fires contribute to the toxicity of the air in this region. The port city of Pakistan has a yearly PM2.5 average density of 117 ug/m3 and is ranked fifth in the WHO list of most polluted cities.
The fifth largest city in the country, Peshawar has seen immense industrialization in the past years. There are a lot of contributing factors to the deteriorating state of environment in the city, apart from vehicular emissions. The city is also home to a number of brick kilns and has also witnessed bombings during wars. Also the use of dilapidated automobiles and unchecked burning of solid waste have resulted in PM2.5 levels soaring as high as 111ug/m3.
The city which lies in the Punjab province of Pakistan is an important center of textile industry in the country. Rawalpindi’s proximity to the GT Road brings in a constant flow of tourists to the city. Urbanization has also surged in the area and so have the levels of air pollution. The yearly average concentration of PM2.5 is 107 ug/m3 thus making Rawalpindi the seventh most polluted city in the world.
Khorramabad is a scenic town of Iran which is the country’s leading agricultural zone. But in recent years, excessive pollution levels in the city have become a cause of alarm for its inhabitants. According to the WHO reports, the air quality has degraded severely and particulate matter concentration has gone up to 102 ug/m3.
Post the 2001 earthquake which hit Gujarat, the state has seen immense growth. Industrial expansion as well as foray of IT sector, in the land of Gir lions have contributed to the economic development in the region. But the ensuing deforestation to provide housing facilities to the rising population and infrastructure for business houses has adversely impacted the environmental conditions in the capital city. Ahmedabad has recorded a mean concentration of 100 ug/m3 of PM2.5 and is listed as the ninth most polluted city in the world.
The Lucknawi kebab and the chikankari stitch are world famous. But recently the land of Nawabs was in the limelight for a rather disquieting cause. The capital city was ranked tenth among the most polluted cities of the world. The report by WHO states that the mean annual concentration of the PM2.5 particulate matter is as high as 96ug/m3, while the acceptable limit is 10 ug/m3.
The bangle industry of Firozabad, India is responsible for providing livelihood to many in the region. But at the same time it is also responsible for the alarming pollution levels. The air in the City of Bangles has turned highly toxic over the years. Firozabad ranks 11th in the list, with a yearly average density of particulate matter same as Lucknow.
The capital city of Qatar, Doha is also the highest populated city in the country. Bordered by the Persian Gulf, the city is also the center for industrial activities, which is one of the main reasons of degrading air quality. The WHO report names the Gulf city as the 12th highly polluted city, with PM2.5 concentration of 93 ug/m3.
The leather industry in the city of Kanpur rakes in as much as 6000 crore INR in foreign exchange and provides livelihood to millions. Apart from the tanneries, several steel and other industries sprawl across the city thus making it one of the most flourishing industrial centers of the country. But the irresponsible handling of industrial wastes and effluents is posing a severe threat to the residents of the city. With PM2.5 concentration in the air as high as 93 ug/m3, Kanpur is the world’s 13th most polluted city.
A myriad of industries starting from carpets and fabrics, handicrafts, service trades to agriculture–based industries to tourism flourish in the land of Golden Temple. But sadly the city also has some of the highest levels of toxic particulate matter in its air. Apparently Amritsar has the most number of auto rickshaws; the emissions from these have resulted in a catastrophic rise in the PM2.5 concentration. The annual average density now stands at an alarming 92 ug/m3.
Another major industrial hub in the state of Punjab, Ludhiana is known for its hosiery and apparel industry. As economically affluent as Amritsar, the city features in the list of most polluted cities with a PM2.5 concentration of 91 ug/m3.
Inhabited by the Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Turks, Turkey is one among the world’s oldest inhabited countries. The rampant urbanization, uncontrolled vehicular and industrial exhausts, and deforestation are taking a toll on the picturesque landscape of the country. Igdir, which is the driest city, is worst affected as the average concentration of the PM2.5 particles is recorded at 90ug/m3.
During the dry seasons, several brick-kilns are functional across the length and breadth of Bangladesh. Emissions from these kilns consist of particulate matter, oxides of volatile compounds, black carbon and other harmful gases. Further aggravating the condition in Narayanganj is the increasing industrial effluents. With an annual mean concentration of PM2.5 particulate matter recorded at 89 ug/m3, Narayanganj has the world’s 17th city with most polluted air.
The city of Allahabad is where the three perennial rivers of India meet. Situated on the banks of the confluence of three rivers, the city is abuzz with industrial activity. But years of uncontrolled emissions has contributed to a surge in the levels of air pollution. Even the dedicated green belt area of the city have witnessed immense rise in PM2.5 concentration. With an annual mean concentration of 88 ug/m3 Allahabad ranks 18th on the list of most polluted cities.
The city which houses the symbol of eternal love Taj Mahal is sadly among one of the top 20 cities with most polluted air. Despite hue and cry over the diminishing whitish irradiance of the Taj Mahal due to pollutions, authorities maintain a lackadaisical attitude. The result is the average annual concentration of the PM2.5 particulate matter in the city is 88ug/m3.
Situated in Punjab, Khanna is Asia’s biggest grain hub. With close affinity to industrial areas, the air in the city has also become highly toxic. The average density of particulate matter is same as Agra thus making it the 20th city with most polluted air in the world.