New Delhi Is World's Most Polluted Capital for Second Straight Year-Study

By Neha Dasgupta

February 28, 2020

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - New Delhi was the world's most polluted capital city for the second straight year in 2019, according to a Swiss-based group that gathers air-quality data globally.

India was also home to 21 of the world's 30 most polluted cities, IQ AirVisual said in the study that focused on the amount of PM2.5, fine particulate matter, in major urban areas.

The study measured the concentration of these particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can be carried deep into the lungs.

In 2019, New Delhi's average annual concentration of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air was 98.6 micrograms, according to the report, nearly 10 times the WHO recommended mean annual exposure limit of 10 mcg/m3.

New Delhi's average concentration is also more than double the level of Beijing, which averaged 42.1 mcg/m3 during the year, making it the ninth most polluted city in the world.

New Delhi's toxic air is caused by vehicle and industrial emissions, dust from building sites, smoke from the burning of rubbish and crop residue in nearby fields.

Last year, during a pollution peak in November and December, residents of New Delhi, home to more than 20 million people, could breathe "moderate" to "satisfactory" air only for four days.

Late last year, the spike in air pollution levels forced authorities, who declared a public health emergency, to shut schools twice.

The study, however, said India did see "widespread improvements" in PM2.5 levels in 2019 compared to a year earlier, largely due to favorable meteorological conditions, government efforts to clean the air and an overall economic slowdown.

"Despite improvements, India still faces serious air pollution challenges," the study said.

SOURCE: IQAir 2019 World Air Quality Report, February 2020.