Srinagar among world’s top 20 most polluted cities: WHO

Srinagar among world’s top 20 most polluted cities: WHO
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Srinagar, May 2: Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital city, was among 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, data released by the WHO showed on Wednesday.
The WHO data also said that nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.
In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figured among the 20 most-polluted cities of the world in 2016.
The World Health Organisation has called upon member-countries in its Southeast Asia Region to aggressively address the double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution, saying the region, which comprises India, accounts for 34 pc or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution together globally every year.
Of the 3.8 million deaths caused by household air pollution globally, the region accounts for 1.5 million or 40 per cent deaths, and of the 4.2 million global deaths due to ambient air pollution, 1.3 million or 30 per cent are reported from the region, it said.
The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.
WHO’s global urban air pollution database measured the levels of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) from more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries, according to which ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.
Since 2016, over 1,000 additional cities have been added to WHO’s database, which shows more countries are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution than ever before.
“WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia,” the report said.
According to the report, more than 90 per cent of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (including India), mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.
“Around 3 billion people – more than 40 per cent of the world’s population – still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution,” it said.
It said the WHO recognises air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated 24 per cent of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25 per cent from stroke, 43 per cent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 per cent from lung cancer.
A study, jointly conducted by a team of scientists from Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and University of Kashmir, had revealed that pollution in Srinagar hits dangerous levels during winter months as the air carries five times more tiny particulate matter than the permissible limit, with the experts terming it a worrying development.
The study found that the air quality deteriorates significantly during the winters in the city, known as one of the world’s major tourist destination and also for its pristine environment.
“Long-term monitoring of fine particulate matter, PM2.5, responsible for deteriorating human health, has been done and the results indicate that air quality of the capital city Srinagar deteriorates significantly during the winter,” the study, conducted between May 2013 and April 2014 and the report of which was released recently, said.
It found that PM 2.5 levels in winter touched 348 micro-grams per cubic metre – five times higher than the national permissible limit of 60 micro-grams per cubic metre, mainly due to the use of coal for domestic purpose.
“The level of PM2.5 touches a peak value of 348 micro-grams per cubic metre against the Indian permissible limit of 60 micro-grams per cubic metre. The emissions due to domestic coal usage are found to be 1246.4 tons/year, which accounts for 84 per cent of the total annual emissions,” it said.
On some days, the air pollution in Srinagar is worse than that of Delhi and overall as bad as Kolkata. “While the overall pollution in Srinagar (in winter) is as bad as in Kolkata, on some days, it is as bad or worse than Delhi,” Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Head Department of Earth Sciences at Kashmir University, and one of the authors of the study said.

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