India dominates list of world's most polluted cities

In this file photo taken on September 26, 2018 Indian commuters walk amid air pollution in New Delhi. India dominated a list of the world's most polluted cities in 2018, taking 22 of the top 30 spots, according to a Greenpeace report. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2019
0

India dominates list of world's most polluted cities

  • Air pollution is estimated to contribute to 7 million premature deaths every year
  • Cities in China, Pakistan and Bangladesh were also placed in the top 30

NEW DELHI: India dominated a list of the world's most polluted cities in 2018, taking 22 of the top 30 spots, according to a Greenpeace report.
Air pollution is estimated to contribute to 7 million premature deaths every year and is considered by the United Nations to be the single biggest environmental health risk.
While Delhi was again named the capital with the dirtiest air, in tenth place, neighbouring business city Gurugram, which in 2016 changed its name from Gurgaon, took the not-so-coveted top spot.
Cities in China, Pakistan and Bangladesh were also placed in the top 30.
The 2018 World Air Quality Report, compiled by Greenpeace and IQAir AirVisual, used air pollution data from tens of thousands of public and private monitoring stations across the world to rank over 3,000 cities from dirtiest down to cleanest.
At a country level, weighted by population, Bangladesh emerged as the most polluted country on average, closely followed by Pakistan and India, with Afghanistan and Mongolia also within the top 10.
"In addition to human lives lost, there's an estimated global cost of 225 billion dollars in lost labour, and trillions in medical costs," said Yeb Sano, executive director of Greenpeace South East Asia.
"This has enormous impacts, on our health and on our wallets."
The report looked at measurements of fine particles known as PM2.5, which can penetrate into the airways to cause respiratory problems.
Of the over 3,000 cities included in the list, 64 percent exceeded the World Health Organisation's annual exposure guideline for PM2.5.
Average concentrations of the pollutant in Chinese cities fell by 12 percent from 2017 to 2018. Beijing now ranks as the 122nd most polluted city in the world.
"In recent times, East Asia has demonstrated a strong correlation between rapid economic development and increased air pollution," the report found.
It added that as the need to reduce air pollution has become more pressing in countries like China, "extensive monitoring networks and air pollution reduction policies have been put into place."
The report also highlighted a lack of public information on air quality, particularly in Africa and South America.
Real-time information is a "cornerstone in generating public awareness and driving action to combat air pollution in the long-term," it added.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 42 min 22 sec ago
0

‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.