22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India, says the 2020 World Air Quality report by Switzerland-based air quality technology company, IQAir. Xinjiang in China is ranked as the top-most polluted city in the world, followed by nine Indian cities in the list.

Ghaziabad is the second most polluted city in the world. The other Indian cities named in the report are: Bulandshahr, Bisrakh Jalalpur (both in Uttar Pradesh), Bhiwadi (Rajasthan), Noida, Greater Noida, Kanpur, Lucknow (all in UP), Delhi, Faridabad (Haryana), Meerut (UP), Jind, Hisar (both in Haryana), Agra, Muzaffarnagar (both UP), Fatehabad, Bandhwari , Gurugram , Yamuna Nagar, Rohtak (all Haryana), Muzaffarpur (UP), and Dharuhera (Haryana).

The IQAir report also reveals the impact of COVID-19 lockdown and behavioural changes on global particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels. It states that air quality improved in 84% of all monitored countries due to COVID-19 related lockdowns in 2020. Some of the major improvements compared to the year 2019 were seen in Paris (-17%), London (-16%), Seoul (-16%), Delhi (-15%), Chicago (-13%) and Beijing (-11%).

The global cities ranking report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries, which is measured by ground-based monitoring stations, most of which is operated by government agencies. Only 24 of the 106 monitored countries met the annual guidelines for PM2.5 set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Nearly 63% of Indian cities saw improvements in air quality when compared to 2019 levels but the pollution still remained high across the country. Avinash Chanchal, climate campaigner, Greenpeace India, said, “While many cities recorded temporary improvements in air quality due to lockdowns, the health impact of burning fossil fuels remained severe. Unfortunately, Delhi continued to be the most polluted capital city in the world in 2020.”

Major sources of India’s air pollution include transportation, biomass burning for cooking, electricity generation, industry, construction, waste burning and episodic agricultural burning.

“The transportation sector is one of the major contributors to India’s leading PM2.5 emission sources across cities. Speeding up the transition to clean energy and clean transport not only saves lives but also dramatically reduces healthcare-related costs,” Chanchal said.

“The year 2020 brought an unexpected dip in air pollution. In 2021, we will likely see an increase in air pollution due to human activity, again. We hope this report will highlight that urgent action is both possible and necessary to combat air pollution, which remains the world’s greatest environmental health threat,” said CEO of IQAir Frank Hammes. Meta title: 22 of the World’s Top 30 Polluted Cities in India

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