The latest World Bank report titled ‘Leveraging urbanisation in South Asia’ says that cities in the region are notable for polluted air, with Delhi being the most polluted.
Delhi is the worst among 381 cities from developing countries; 19 of the 20 most polluted cities are from South Asia.
“In Delhi, recorded air pollution is almost three times higher than in Beijing, giving it the dubious distinction of being the world’s most polluted city,” the report said.
Referring to the World Health Organization (WHO) report with regard to the level of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 in the air, the World Bank said that air pollution from vehicle emissions and the burning of fossil fuels by industry is one of the most serious problems.
High concentrations of fine particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the likelihood of asthma, lung cancer, severe respiratory illness, and heart disease.
The World Bank report said:
“Delhi is far from unique in South Asia in having dangerously high concentrations of PM2.5 .And the issue is not just in India -Karachi, Dhaka, and Kabul all feature in the top 20.”
It said that given the lack of availability of and access to clean public transport in India, the air pollution will increase more in India than elsewhere.
Because for any given increase in demand for mobility associated with a given increase in population density, more air pollution will be generated.
The report further noted that well-managed urbanization can lead to sustainable growth but managing cities is a messy affair in India and other South Asian countries.