The Severity of India’s Pollution Problem.
A new map from the World Health Organization (http://maps.who.int/airpollution/) shows just how bad India’s air pollution problem is. The interactive map, which shows the average levels of dangerous particulate matter in the air that can lodge in lungs and cause diseases, was made by the WHO in conjunction with the U.K.’s University of Bath. It shows that 92% of the world’s population live in places where air quality is worse than the WHO’s recommended limits.
Researchers used satellite data as well as information from ground stations to create the map. WHO data released in May showed that the city of Gwalior was India’s most polluted city, coming second in the world to Zabol in Iran. The map plots levels of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in the air. The darker the red on the map, the higher the concentration. The PM2.5 pollutants, which come from dust, soot and smoke, can penetrate deep into the lungs and increase the risk of heart and lung diseases including asthma and lung cancer. The map paints a dark swathe of red across northern India, meaning that the annual average PM2.5 levels are above 70. The country gets progressively lighter in color toward the south, indicating lower pollution levels. But not one spot of the country is green–indicating healthy air. India’s capital, New Delhi, is the 11th worst polluted in the world, with an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122. Mumbai is another hotspot, with an average PM.2.5 level of 63.
The World Health Organization said that worldwide, around 3 million people a year die of causes linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution and that nearly 90% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. In India, air pollution comes from a number of sources, including the burning of trash, the use of coal for cooking, factories and exhaust fumes. In some parts of the country, like Delhi, dust storms exacerbate the problem. The Delhi government has made efforts to reduce car use, but experts say more needs to be done. “Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general at WHO said in the report. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”
Credit: Corrine Abrams for The Wall Street Journal 28 September 2016