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The Most Polluted Cities in India


Experienced content writer, Shafqat M. writes on travel, technology, environment, and digital marketing.

A City Covered in Smog!

A City Covered in Smog!

In India, insufficiencies are the norm. While some states face acute water shortage, others lack basic amenities. But there's also a thing India abounds in!

It's the number of cities that make it to the list of most polluted cities in the world. 9 out of 10 cities that have been identified as most polluted cities are in India. And it's a blot on India's reputation in the global arena.

You can hate this as much you want but that won't make a difference. The thing that could make a difference is for people to press upon their leaders and get them to take concrete action, come out open on their stance on the status of pollution in India and deliver time-bound results.

We All Must Do Our Bit For Environmental Protection!

We All Must Do Our Bit For Environmental Protection!

With PM 2.5 as the standard against which pollution is measured, WHO gives us the names of 10 most polluted cities in the world. And the list has implications for India as 9 of those cities are Indian cities.

PM 2.5 means that pollution is so severe that it could affect the health of millions of Indians. Even more severely damage the health conditions of daily labourers who are over-exposed to the outside environment.

This imminent health crisis put the burden on the economy and workforce of the country. Alas, these reports hardly make it to the newsroom discussions, hence the general public remains largely unaware of these facts.

And it's the result of the scanty news coverage that most of the population is complicit in rising pollutions across India.

Name & PM 2.5 Level of Most Polluted Cities in India

*mcg (micrograms) per cubic meter

CityPM 2.5 Level*





















List of Most Polluted Cities in India

Here's the list of the most polluted cities in India as identified by the 2018 study conducted by the World Health Organization:

1. Kanpur – WHO recommends that the PM2.5 level should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Kanpur, which is one of the worst polluted cities in India, has PM2.5 exceeding the recommended level staggeringly. It has a PM2.5 level of 173 mcg per cubic meter.

2. Faridabad – In the state of Haryana, Faridabad is not only a most crowded city but also a most polluted city. The traffic in the city is so heavy that it emerges as the single largest contributor to its PM2.5 level, which is at 172 mcg per cubic meter.

3. Varanasi – Varanasi, considered a holy city by many because the Ganges flows through it. Pilgrims from all over India come here to bathe in the river Ganga. But, unfortunately, the city's PM2.5 level is far exceeding the recommended levels set by the World Health Organization at 151 mcg per cubic meter.

4. Gaya – It's another city that features on the list of most polluted cities in India. Because of the abundance of Hindu and Buddhist temples there, Gaya is counted among the most religious cities in India. Alas, spirituality could not save this beautiful city from monstrous pollution. Its PM2.5 level is at 149 mcg per cubic meter.

5. Patna – Patna is overcrowded, transportation is heavy, and noise is unbearable. Though the city is settled on the banks of the mighty river, Ganges, its pollution is equally mighty. At 144 mcg per cubic meter, Patna secures a prominent position among the most polluted cities in India.

6. Delhi – A city synonymous with air pollution, Delhi, it is surprising to see, has a PM2.5 level of 143 mcg per cubic meter. It sounds unbelievable but maybe it has cleaned up the mess a little bit, and if so is the case, all praise to Delhi leadership.

7. Lucknow – A city that stands out as the epicenter of Mughal and British royalty struggles to make a mark because it's entrenched in pollution. Its recorded PM2.5 level is 138 mcg per cubic meter. It's enough to make one forget the grandeur of its parks and monuments Lucknow so enviously abounds in.

8. Agra – A city that harbors the monument of love - the Taj Mahal, remains in shambles due to severe pollution in the city. With PM2.5 levels at 131 mcg per cubic meter, the city serves as a spoil to the most iconic monuments of the world.

9. Muzaffarpur – As summer appears, promising glory and bloom, Muzaffarpur steam up in the extreme heat and as the scorching sun breaks on the city its fury, humidity follows, giving finishing touches to the beatings of the pollution. The city has 120 mcg per cubic meter PM2.5 level.

10. Srinagar – During extremely cold winters, Srinagar resorts to coal and firewood to keep cold away. How far they succeed in keeping themselves warm in the freezing winters is a matter of experience for the people of Srinagar but its impact on the environment bears itself out as the PM2.5 hits 113 mcg per cubic meter.

That's the list of most polluted cities in India, and the cities not featuring in the list above are not any less polluted.

For example, in terms of air pollution, it's reported, Kolkata has replaced Delhi as one of the most polluted cities. Its air quality is way below recommended quality standards.

Most Polluted Cities in India in Terms of Particulate Matter ~ WHO

Final Remarks

But if one considers the reports, as of January 2019, they suggest that pollution in India has gone from bad to worse.

The Guardian report on Delhi pollution is particularly terrible, stating that Delhi welcomes New Year with PM2.5 at record-high 440. And that in some parts it had even touched 500 mcg per cubic meter.

The soot, sulfur oxides, dust continue to haunt residents of India. This contaminated air is what 93% of children living on the face of earth breathe.

How does India plan to tackle the pollution of this magnitude remains to be seen. But one thing is clear that the current political dispensation lacks the will and motivation needed to fight pollution of all types.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Shafqat M


Liz Westwood from UK on November 06, 2020:

You highlight some shocking statistics in this article.

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