India's Air Quality Crisis: Kolkata and Mumbai Join Delhi in Top 10 Polluted Cities!

Two Indian cities have notably joined New Delhi in the list of the world's ten most polluted cities, following the celebrations of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

by Faruk Imamovic
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India's Air Quality Crisis: Kolkata and Mumbai Join Delhi in Top 10 Polluted Cities!
© Getty Images News/Allison Joyce

Two Indian cities have notably joined New Delhi in the list of the world's ten most polluted cities, following the celebrations of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. This yearly event, marked by the widespread use of pyrotechnics, has significantly impacted air quality, leading to concerning levels of pollution.

New Delhi, India's capital, is no stranger to topping this undesirable list. On Monday morning, it recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 420, categorizing it in the hazardous range, as reported by the Swiss group IQAir. This figure is alarmingly high, posing severe risks to public health.

However, this year, New Delhi was not alone in its plight. Kolkata, in eastern India, and Mumbai, the country's financial capital, also featured prominently, ranking fourth and eighth with AQI levels of 196 and 163, respectively.

The Impact of Pollution Levels

An AQI level ranging from 400 to 500 can adversely affect even healthy individuals and is particularly dangerous for those with existing health conditions. Meanwhile, an AQI between 150 and 200, which both Kolkata and Mumbai exceeded, can cause discomfort to people with respiratory and cardiac issues.

The benchmark for 'good' air quality, an AQI of 0-50, seems a distant reality for these cities. The situation in New Delhi worsened on Sunday evening, as a thick layer of smog enveloped the city, pushing the AQI to a staggering 680 shortly after midnight.

This spike in pollution levels is a direct consequence of Diwali celebrations, despite annual bans on pyrotechnics in the capital. These bans, however, are seldom enforced effectively.

The Underlying Causes and Responses

Air quality in India deteriorates annually as winter approaches, when colder air traps emissions from various sources, including vehicles, industrial activities, construction dust, and the burning of agricultural waste.

In response to the escalating pollution, New Delhi authorities had contemplated restricting vehicle use, but a brief spell of rain on Friday, which provided temporary relief, delayed this decision. The government plans to revisit this strategy post-Diwali.

The situation in India's major cities, as reflected in the latest AQI readings, underscores a persistent and growing problem of air pollution. Effective enforcement of regulations and long-term strategies are urgently needed to address this public health crisis.

Top 10 cities in the world with high air pollution (AQI)

  1. Delhi (430)
  2. Lahore (384)
  3. Baghdad (202)
  4. Kolkata (196)
  5. Karachi (182)
  6. Dhaka (172)
  7. Kuwait City (170)
  8. Doha (158)
  9. Mumbai (156)
  10. Jakarta (151)

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