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WHO finds Indian cities have dirtiest air; Chinese data foggy

Published on May 7, 2014 11:36 PM
 

GENEVA  (REUTERS) – An effort by the World Health Organization to measure pollution in cities around the world has found New Delhi admits to having the dirtiest air, while Beijing’s measurements, like its skies, are far from clear.

The study of 1,600 cities found air pollution had worsened since a smaller survey in 2011, especially in poorer countries, putting city-dwellers at higher risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.

Air pollution killed about 7 million people in 2012, making it the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, the WHO, a United Nations agency, said last month.

Thirteen of the dirtiest 20 cities were Indian, with New Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur in the top four spots.

The Indian capital had an annual average of 153 micrograms of small particulates, known as PM2.5, per cubic metre.

Beijing, notorious for the smog that has prompted some Anglophone residents to dub it “Greyjing”, was in 77th place with a PM2.5 reading of 56, little over one-third of Delhi’s pollution level.

WHO experts said the Chinese data was from 2010, the most recent year made available to them by China.

But Beijing’s city government began publishing hourly PM2.5 data in January 2012.

A year after it started publishing data, Beijing’s air quality hit the “worst on record” according to Greenpeace, with a PM2.5 reading as high as 900 on one occasion.

Beijing’s government said last month that PM2.5 concentrations stood at a daily average of 89.5 micrograms per cubic metre in 2013, 156 per cent higher than national standards.

Such a reading would put Beijing 17th in the WHO database.

 
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