New Delhi ranked most polluted capital city in 6th Annual World Air Quality report

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New Delhi, 19 March 2024: The 6th Annual World Air Quality Report finds New Delhi to be the most polluted capital city in the world, while India ranks as the third most polluted country globally in 2023, closing following neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal.

India continues to grapple with drastically poor air quality with PM2.5 concentrations exceeding the WHO annual guideline by more than 10 times. The report released by IQAir has also identified India’s Begusarai as the most polluted metropolitan area of 2023 globally.

India faced a worsening air quality crisis, with the annual average concentration of PM2.5 increasing slightly to 54.4 μg/m3 in 2023 compared to the previous year. This spike in pollution levels pose significant health risks to an estimated 1.36 billion people living in the country.

Meanwhile the National Capital Region witnessed a particularly alarming surge in PM2.5 levels, rising by 10% and peaking at a monthly average of 255 μg/m3 in November. Indian cities dominate the global list of most polluted cities, with 12 out of the top 15 ranked cities located within the country.

Commenting on the IQAir recent report, Avinash Chanchal, Campaign Manager, Greenpeace India says, “The data indicates pressing environmental challenges that India faces, posing significant health risks to its vast population. Vehicle emissions continue to play a significant role in exacerbating air pollution, accounting for 40% of PM2.5 emissions in the nation’s capital.”

“It is important for us to be able to read and analyse air pollution data on a daily basis in order to bring inclusive, sustainable solutions. It has been over two years since WHO revised its air quality standards, but despite repeated demands from various quarters India is yet to update the guidelines. Our NAAQS is outdated. ” says Avinash.  

As climate change alters weather patterns, it can exacerbate air quality issues, with extreme heat events becoming more severe and frequent, and increased wildfires. It has also intensified the pollen seasons, exacerbating allergic airway diseases like allergic rhinitis and asthma, especially when combined with exposure to PM2.5 pollutants.

The report analyzes PM2.5 air quality data from 7,812 cities spanning 134 countries, regions and territories. While the number of countries and regions with air quality monitoring has steadily increased over the past six years, there remain significant gaps in air quality monitoring networks worldwide. Africa remains the most underrepresented continent, with a third of the population lacking access to air quality data.

“A clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right. In many parts of the world the lack of air quality data delays decisive action and perpetuates unnecessary human suffering. Air quality data saves lives. Where air quality is reported, action is taken, and air quality improves,” says Frank Hammes, Global CEO of IQAir.


The findings of the report are another wake-up call for cities in South Asia. Whether it’s the most polluted city, Begusarai, a hub of fossil fuel-based industries, or the most polluted country, Bangladesh that is heavily dependent on fossil fuel based energy, it shows that burning fossil fuels is one of the biggest causes of air pollution.

There is an urgent need to move beyond outdated fossil fuels, both for our health and for the planet. We must invest in clean energy generation and just transition towards it. Cities need to recognise vehicular emissions as a major contributor to worsening air quality and shift to sustainable transport on a war footing, by setting a phase-out date for diesel, gas, and petrol cars and introducing affordable, renewable-energy-powered public transport, along with safe pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure.

For more information 

Nischita Verrendra

Avinash Kumar Chanchal

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