WHO declares Delhi the most polluted city in the world

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the Indian capital of Delhi to be the most polluted and dirtiest city in the world in a recent survey of 1600 cities around the globe, and India’s state air monitoring centre has admitted that the pollution in Delhi is comparable with that found in Beijing.

The study that looked at cities across 91 countries showed Delhi had the highest annual average concentration of PM2.5 particles (small airborne particles) of 153. It is these PM2.5 particles which measure less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter that are linked with elevated rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease, as they penetrate deep into the lungs and pass into the blood stream.

The official Indian government has disputed the results, as it has in previous years when there were unfavourable comparisons to Beijing; thick smog in the Chinese city has triggered public health warnings and barrages of concern from the public, both of which are absent in Delhi.

“If we compare yearly averages for each year from 2011-2014 then both cities (Delhi and Beijing) are almost comparable,” Gufran Beig from India’s state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) acknowledged in a message on their website.

He went on to dispute the figures, citing unofficial readings from the US Embassy in Beijing that indicated the number from the Chinese capital to be higher than the WHO figure, and claiming that the Delhi figure from the report was at least one-third overstated.

“Delhi’s air quality is better than Beijing in summer and much better in monsoon season,” he added. “It is winter pollution in Delhi and sudden spikes – which is quite high as compared to Beijing – triggered by meteorology.” Which all seems a bit immaterial really – the air is dirty, Mr Beig, now do something useful and come up with some solutions.

India’s environmental court has slammed the government’s stance over the capital’s truly horrendous air pollution, leading to the National Green Tribunal directing all vehicles older than 15 years to be taken off the roads in Delhi and demanding pollution checks to be undertaken for all state buses.

“We applaud the tribunal’s urgency on Delhi’s pollution which is reaching toxic levels,” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, an environmental group that is campaigning for a clean-up in India. “But the measures need to go further to deal with issues like the 1,000 new vehicles coming on to the roads each day.” According to Chandra, “The latest urban air-quality database released by the World Health Organisation reconfirms that most Indian cities are becoming death traps because of very high air pollution levels.” The centre believes that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities are in India.

Controlling air pollution is essential for the health of the population and Delhi is suffering from the scourge of coal-fired power plants, dust from building sites, dust from the Rajasthan desert as well as the smoke from cooking and heating fires that are lit around the capital particularly by the urban poor.

However, any visitor to the nation’s smoggy capital will not fail to notice the number of buses, lorries and even cars that belch thick plumes of exhaust as the try to navigate the clogged roads. Recently, X-1R has launched a number of initiatives in northern India to educate the road hauliers and bus companies along with state governments on some simple steps to dramatically reduce their smog-belching habits.

By simply adding X-1R fuel additives, emissions have been proven to reduce by as much as 95% in the worst offenders, which must be a good thing. We are yet to find out if there will be a widespread adoption of the X-1R technologies to help fight the life-threatening smog, but once we find out we will let you know.

image: themalaysiantimes.com.my

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