New Delhi Chokes Again: India Remains Mired in Air Pollution Crisis, Greenpeace Demands Action

Report Finds Widespread Issues, with 12 Indian Cities Ranking Among World’s Worst

New Delhi, the capital of India, has retained its dubious distinction as the world’s most polluted capital city, according to the 6th Annual World Air Quality Report by IQAir. This comes as no surprise to residents who grapple with thick smog and respiratory issues year after year.

The report paints a grim picture for India as a whole. The country itself ranks third globally for air pollution, with PM2.5 concentrations exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual guideline by a staggering tenfold. Begusarai, an Indian metropolis, takes the unwelcome title of the most polluted city in the world.

The data reveals a worsening trend. The average annual PM2.5 concentration in India rose slightly in 2023 compared to the previous year. This seemingly small increase translates to a significant health risk for an estimated 1.36 billion Indians.

The National Capital Region (NCR) witnessed a particularly sharp rise, with PM2.5 levels spiking by 10% and reaching a frightening monthly average of 255 μg/m3 in November. This is more than five times the WHO’s recommended limit. Twelve out of the top 15 most polluted cities globally are in India, highlighting the pervasiveness of the crisis.

“The data exposes the pressing environmental challenges India faces, posing serious health risks to its vast population,” said Avinash Chanchal, Campaign Manager for Greenpeace India. He points to vehicle emissions as a major culprit, contributing to 40% of PM2.5 pollution in Delhi alone.

Chanchal further criticizes India’s outdated National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which haven’t been updated despite the WHO revising its air quality guidelines two years ago. “Daily access to air quality data is crucial for us to analyze the situation and develop sustainable solutions,” he stressed.

The report also highlights the interplay between air pollution and climate change. As weather patterns shift due to a warming planet, extreme heat events and wildfires become more frequent, further exacerbating air quality issues. Additionally, increased pollen seasons combined with PM2.5 exposure worsen allergic airway diseases like asthma.

This report serves as a wake-up call not just for India, but for South Asia as a whole. The heavy reliance on fossil fuels in cities like Begusarai and Bangladesh, the most polluted country, underscores the need for a clean energy transition.

Greenpeace India urges a swift move away from fossil fuels and investment in renewable energy sources. Additionally, they emphasize the need for cities to address vehicular emissions as a major contributor to air pollution. This includes setting phase-out dates for polluting vehicles and promoting affordable, clean public transportation options alongside safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.