What's New :
IAS Mains 2024: Complete (GS & Optional) Syllabus Revision & Updation. Get Details

“World Air Quality Report 2019”

Published: 4th Mar, 2020

Twenty-one of the world's 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India, according to data compiled in IQAirAirVisual's 2019 World Air Quality Report, with six in the top ten.


Twenty-one of the world's 30 cities with the worst air pollution are in India, according to data compiled in IQAirAirVisual's 2019 World Air Quality Report, with six in the top ten.


  • The ranking is based on levels of "fine particulate matter," known as PM2.5, which pose the greatest risk to human health. These tiny particles are 2.5 micrometres or smaller.
  • The WHO warns, however, that the microscopically smaller particles of PM2.5 are even more dangerous to human health because they have the ability to "penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system."

WHO’s guideline:

  • The World Health Organization's guideline for annual mean exposure to fine particulate matter is 10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3).
    • According to IQAir, "cities in India, on average, exceed the WHO target for annual PM2.5 exposure by 500%."

Mapping the most polluted cities:

    • Ghaziabad, a satellite city of the capital New Delhi in northern Uttar Pradesh state, is ranked as the world's most polluted city, with an average PM 2.5 concentration measurement of 110.2 in 2019.
    • Hotan in China was the second most polluted. Delhi, the poster city of pollution, stood at the sixth position for 2019. All six most polluted cities of India that feature in the top 10 are from the National Capital Region.
    • Noida, Gurugram, Greater Noida and Bandhwari are the other cities in the top 10 list. 
    • Total 21:In total, 21 out of 30 world's most polluted cities of 2019 are from India. The 21 Indian cities, in the order of their ranking, are, Ghaziabad, Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Greater Noida, Bandhwari, Lucknow, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Jind, Faridabad, Coraut, Bhiwadi, Patna, Palwal, Muzaffarpur, Hisar, Kutail, Jodhpur and
    • Capital cities:Among capital cities, Delhi remains the world's most polluted capital city, with an annual average PM2.5 of 98.6 ppm in 2019.

Country-wise data:

    • According to country-wise data, India ranked fifth in the world's most polluted countries with Bangladesh on top of the list followed by Pakistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan.
    • Bangladesh was the most polluted country with an average PM2.5 concentration of 83.3 ppm.
    • In terms of most polluted cities, however, Indian and Chinese cities occupy almost all the spots.
    • Among the top 200 most polluted cities, 178 are from these two countries comprising nearly 90% of the list.
    • All 30 most polluted cities are from the Asian continent.

Has India improved?

    • There seems to be a silver lining in the appalling levels of pollution reported for 2019.
    • Except for Nagpur, every other city in India registered a decrease in pollution levels in 2019 compared to 2018 levels.
    • India saw widespread improvements in PM2.5 levels in 2019, compared to the year prior as a result of economic slowdown, favourable meteorological conditions, as well as more dedicated efforts towards cleaning the air.
    • As a weighted average based on the available data, national air pollution decreased by a remarkable 20% from 2018 to 2019.
    • India stands fifth in the most polluted countries list with average pollution levels of 58.1 ppm. Pakistan was the second most polluted, followed by Mongolia in the third spot.
    • Mainland China stood at the 11 positions in the polluted countries list.
    • Regionally, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Western Asia carry the highest burden of fine particulate matter pollution overall.

What is Particulate Matter?

Particulate matter is categorized as PM 2.5 and PM 10.

PM 2.5

PM 10

PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter

PM10 is particulate matter 10 micrometres or less in diameter

PM2.5 is generally described as fine particles. By way of comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometres, so roughly 40 fine particles could be placed on its width.


These small particles, 30 times smaller than the width of a hair on your head, are small enough to get caught up in our defensive nose hairs and into the upper airways of our lungs.

Due to the microscopic size, Particulate matters enter the respiratory system in the bloodstream and causes severe respiratory problems.

The report revealed that India still has a relatively limited air quality monitoring network given its population size, with many communities and highly populated cities without access to real-time information. There is a need for some urgent actions and steps to correct the situation now, otherwise, it will be too late to manage anything.


Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now