The latest WHO ranking of cities based on ambient air quality released on 2nd May lists eight out of ten Indian cities as the top most polluted cities in the world. However, if we look deeper into the data for 859 cities across the world given in the WHO report for the year 2016, it shows an alarming picture. In the 2016 data, 14 Indian cities rank the most polluted in the world, clearly showing that India needs to do more towards solving the air pollution crisis.

New Delhi May 2, 2018 | Greenpeace India Airpocalypse-II Report had complied data from 280 cities across India. Accessing PM10 data for 280 cities was primarily done by filing Right To Information applications to State Pollution Control Boards to access the pollution level data. The data highlighted that more than 80% cities had pollution levels beyond NAAQS set-up by CPCB which is even worse than what we can interpret from this dataset by WHO.

Lack of Data Availability as a Challenge
WHO report contains data for only 32 Indian cities for the year 2016. While Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards monitor air quality data for 300  cities in the country, its surprising that the WHO report contains data only for 32 cities. This could be due to the lack of readily available data in the public domain.

Gap in 100 Non Attainment Cities in NCAP
MoEF&CC  has identified 100 non attainment cities under National Clean Air Programme. However the NCAP misses  3 out of the 14 of most polluted cities highlighted in the WHO report. The cities are Gaya, Patna and Muzaffarpur.

Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India said-
WHO report clearly underplays the situation by mixing up data from many years. In reality the situation in India is much worse. It’s imperative that the NCAP has clear targets for pollution reduction and interim milestones.

On improvement of Chinese Air Quality
“The Chinese cities are showing air quality improvement over past years and that is because of the time-bound and sectorial target adapted there which seems to be missing from Indian version of the Concept note on National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) aimed to improve air quality in India.”

Key Findings of WHO Report-

  • The report also reveal an alarming death toll of 7 million people every year caused by ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution.
  • More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.
  • 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.
  • The highest ambient air pollution levels are in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in South-East Asia, with annual mean levels often exceeding more than 5 times WHO limits, followed by low and middle-income cities in Africa and the Western Pacific.


For Further Details-
Madhulika Verma,
Senior Media Specialist, 9971137736,

Sunil Dahiya,
Senior Campaigner, 9013673250,