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World Air Quality Report 2019

Topics Covered: Conservation and pollution related issues.

World Air Quality Report 2019

What to study?

For Prelims: About the report and key findings.

For Mains: Concerns and challenges and ways to address them.

Context: World Air Quality Report 2019 was released by the pollution tracker IQAir and Greenpeace. The ranking is based on a comparison of PM 2.5 levels. Bangladesh emerged as the most polluted country for PM 2.5. Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India followed behind respectively.


PM 2.5 includes pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon. Exposure to such particles has been linked to lung and heart disorders and can impair cognitive and immune functions.

Performance of India:

  1. Twenty-one of the world’s 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India.
  2. Six cities from India are in the top ten.
  3. Ghaziabad, an area close to New Delhiin northern Uttar Pradesh state, is ranked as the world’s most polluted city, with an average PM 2.5 concentration measurement of 110.2 in 2019.
  4. National air pollution in India decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019, with 98% of cities experiencing of varying levels of improvement.
  5. The report points to economic slowdown, favorable weather conditions, and efforts towards cleaning the air as reasons behind the decrease.
  6. The report also points India’s launch of the country’s first National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which aims to reduce PM 2.5 and the bigger particulate PM 10 air pollution in 102 cities by 20-30% by 2024 compared to 2017 levels.


South Asia:

  1. South Asia continues to be of particular concern, with 27 of the 30 most polluted cities in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
  2. However, South Asia has seen improvements from the previous year.
  3. Chinese cities have overall seen marked improvements in recent years, with average concentrations of pollutants falling 9% from 2018 to 2019, according to the report.

Climate crisis and urbanization:

There are clear indications that climate change can directly increase the risk of exposure to air pollution.

  • It impacts air quality in many cities through desertification and increased frequency of forest fires and sandstorms.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions, with the burning of fossil fuel a key driver of the climate crisis, is also a major cause of dirty air.
  • Many countries are still dependent on coal for their energy production, the biggest contributor to PM 2.5 emissions.
  • Exacerbating the problem is rapid urbanization in industrializing Southeast Asian cities, which is also a major cause of air pollution and poses severe challenges to managing PM 2.5 levels.

Effects of air pollution:

  • According to the World Health Organization, air pollution causes an estimated 7 million premature deaths a year globally, mainly as a result of increased mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory infections.
  • It is estimated that more than 80% living in urban areas which monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guideline limits, with low- and middle-income countries most at risk.

Sources: Indian Express.