Despite widespread air quality improvements during 2019 and 2020, air pollution continues to be dangerously high, the annual data ‘World Air Quality Report, 2020’ compiled by IQAir has revealed.
According to a press release, south Indian cities recorded relatively better air quality, though they remained above the daily WHO limit of 25 µg/m3 for most parts of 2020.
Bengaluru, for instance, recorded an average 15.6% dip in PM 2.5 levels. However, the pollutant levels were above the WHO prescribed limit in 46.7% of the days. The IT city’s annual average stands at 27.5 µg/m3, nearly three times the prescribed limit. Also, Bengaluru’s PM 2.5 levels in December 2020 surpassed the January 2020 levels, indicating that the ‘better air quality’ has already faded away.
The report showed that 22 of the top 30 most polluted cities globally are in India. None of the Indian cities met the prescribed annual limit of 10 µg/m3. This is despite all Indian cities monitored recording improvement in air quality compared to 2018. As many as 63% of them saw improvements compared with 2019. Delhi ranked as the 10th most polluted city and the top polluted capital city in the world.
The report added that major sources of air pollution include transportation, biomass burning for cooking, power generation, industry, construction, waste burning, and episodic agricultural burning. The transportation sector is one of the major contributors to India’s PM 2.5 emission across cities.
“There was an unexpected dip in air pollution in 2020. In 2021, we will likely see an increase in air pollution… urgent action is both possible and necessary to combat air pollution, which remains the world's greatest environmental health threat,” said Frank Hammes, CEO of IQAir, in the release.