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15 Indian cities among the world's most polluted

Last updated on: July 25, 2014 16:09 IST

15 Indian cities among the world's most polluted

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How will big cities look like when all start wearing a gas mask to counter air pollution in a decade or so?

The world's fastest growing economies have turned out to be the biggest polluters.

This is not only because of rise in motor vehicles and industrial facilities but also due to burning of solid fuels that’s prevalent in developing countries.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has come up with a list of most polluted cities in the world. India fares so poorly that 15 cities feature among the list of 30 most polluted in the world.

What’s causing the pollution in India?

Burning of wood and other solid fuels is the main cause of pollution in most cities. In bigger ones, it’s the rising number of vehicles and industries.

How WHO measures pollution?

It takes into account the presence of harmful gases such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. But the main criterion to gauge the pollution level is the presence of harmful particles in air that are really small and measured in micrometres.

What is PM2.5 and PM10?

The level of pollution is measured as PM2.5 and PM10. PM10 means the air has harmful particles that are between 2.5 micrometres and 10 micrometres. These are caused by industries and vehicles.

PM2.5 means the air has harmful particles less than 2.5 micrometres caused due to burning of fossil fuels.

What is the ideal level of pollution in air?

Any amount of pollution is bad. The air should be free of all impurities. WHO, however, says that annual PM2.5 of 10 microgram per cubic metre (10µg/m3) reduces risk of diseases caused by air pollution. The annual PM10 levels should be 20 microgram per cubic metre (20µg/m3) or less.

Which areas are the least polluted?

Many areas in Canada have low levels of pollution. The major cities in the world that have the cleanest air include Vancouver (Canada), Melbourne (Australia), Sydney (Australia) and Wellington (new Zealand), according to the WHO report.

These cities have PM2.5 of 4 - 7µg/m3.

Let’s take a look at the most polluted cities in the world based on annual PM2.5 levels.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Delta cities

Rank: 30

Country: Egypt

Level of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 76.18µg/m3

Level of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 140 µg/m3

Delta cities in Egypt are the ones located on the banks of Nile. The prominent ones include Marina, Alexandria and Gamasa.

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Image: Men fish during the last day of Eid al-Adha in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, 230 km (143 miles) north of Cairo.
Photographs: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Dehradun

Rank: 29

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 77µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 175µg/m3

Nestled in the mountain ranges of the Himalaya, Dehradun is one of the oldest cities of India. Many national institutes and government departments have their main centres in the city. Some of these include Survey Of India, Forest Research Institute, and Indian Institute of Petroleum.

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Image: A bulldozer removes waste floating on a flooded street in Dehradun.
Photographs: Reuters

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Barisal

Rank: 28

Country: Bangladesh

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 77µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 160µg/m3

Sometimes referred as the ‘Venice of the East’ or the ‘Venice of Bengal’, Barisal is a small city is located close to (142km away) Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. It has a population of 380,000. The city has seen fast-paced growth in recent times due its close proximity to the capital. In fact, it got the country's first short landing and take off airport recently.

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Image: Workers try to retrieve a boat which sank in the Kirtankhola river during the storm at Barisal, 280km (174 miles) southwest of Dhaka.
Photographs: Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters

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Batman

Rank: 27

Country: Turkey

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 77µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 114.80µg/m3

From a small village to a bustling city, Batman saw its transformation after the discovery of Turkey’s largest oil field.

But it caught the attention of the world when its mayor sued Warner Bros. and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan for using the city's name without permission.

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Image: Children play in the village of Bogazkoy, as the life returns to normal a day after Turkish officials quarantined the village and culled the poultry, near the southeastern province of Batman, Turkey.
Photographs: Fatih Saribas/Reuters

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Darkhan

Rank: 26

Country: Mongolia

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 80µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 174µg/m3

Located close to Russia, Darkhan is the third-largest city in Mongolia and the capital of Darkhan-Uul Aimag province.

The city was conceived to be a manufacturing hub and was built with funds from Soviet Union in 1961.

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Image: A worker works on an ice sculpture of horses in front of a giant Christmas tree to celebrate Christmas at the Youth Theatre in Darkhan city, Mongolia.
Photographs: Mareike Guensche/Reuters

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Al Wakrah

Rank: 25

Country: Qatar

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 85µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 152µg/m3

Originally a tiny fishing and pearling village, Al Wakrah now is one of the major cities in Qatar. The city is now transforming into a sports town for the FIFA World Cup in 2022. it is seeing huge scale of construction that's adding to the pollution.

The city came into the limelight recently when a monster stadium built there was dubbed as a ‘vagina stadium' by the international press due to its design.

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Image: Wakra Beach.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons

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Jodhpur

Rank: 24

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 86µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 195.5µg/m3

The second largest city in Rajasthan, Jodhpur has a population of over one million. A popular tourist destination, handicrafts is the city’s biggest industry. Other items manufactured include textiles, metal utensils, bicycles, ink and sporting goods.

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Image: Jodhpur.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikipedia Commons

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Dhaka

Rank: 23

Country: Bangladesh

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 86µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 180µg/m3

The largest city in Bangladesh and its main commercial hub, Dhaka has a population of over 15 million.

In recent decades, Dhaka has been experiencing an influx of people from across the nation, making it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the world. Textile is one of the major industries in the capital city.

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Image: A woman collects garbages from a dump yard near a tannery at Hazaribagh along the polluted Buriganga river in Dhaka.
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

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Kabul

Rank: 22

Country: Afghanistan

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 86µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 260µg/m3

Just like Dhaka, Kabul too in one of the fastest growing cities (ranked 5th in surveys) in the world.

Since the fall of the Taliban, the city has seen abundant construction activity with billions flowing in from the World Bank and the United States.

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Image: Afghan internal displaced refugee women carry water on their head near their shelter at the outskirts of Kabul.
Photographs: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

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Gazipur

Rank: 21

Country: Bangladesh

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 87µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 166µg/m3

Located close to Dhaka, Gazipur is a city in central Bangladesh.

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Image: Odd job labourers wait for jobs at Gazipur, 50 km (31 miles) from Dhaka.
Photographs: Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters

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Khanna

Rank: 20

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 88µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 200µg/m3

Khanna is situated on the National Highway between Ludhiana to Ambala and is 45 kilometres away from Ludhiana, the main industrial town of Punjab.

It has the biggest grain market of Asia. It is also an important industrial town where many steel units operate.

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Image: Smoke rises from chimney of a garbage processing plant on the outskirts of Chandigarh.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters

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Agra

Rank: 19

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 88µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 200µg/m3

Known for the Taj Mahal, Agra has been former capital of Hindustan under Mughal Empire.

The main reason for pollution is the sand that comes to the city after rivers run dry in Rajasthan. In recent years, large scale mining has further pushed up the pollution levels. Industries and rising traffic, too has contributed to it.

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Image: The Taj Mahal.
Photographs: Beawiharta/Reuters

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Allahabad

Rank: 18

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 88µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 201.5µg/m3

Located in the southern tip of Uttar Pradesh, Allahabad is the second-oldest city in India.

The city witnesses faith tourism due to Prayaga, one of the holiest shrine in Hinduism. Also, the two sacred rivers Ganga and Yamuna meet here.

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Image: A Sadhu offers milk to the waters of holy river Ganga as part of his morning prayers in Allahabad.
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

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Narayonganj

Rank: 17

Country: Bangladesh

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 89µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 181µg/m3

Commonly called as Narayanganj, is located on the banks of Shitalakshya river and has one of the oldest port in the country.

The city is the centre of business and industry due big jute trade and processing plants.

It is called the ‘Dundee’ of Bangladesh due to the presence of lots of jute mills, according to Wikipedia. Dundee was the first industrialised Juteopolis in the world.

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Image: Sitalakkha river, Narayonganj, Bangladesh.
Photographs: Tanweer drmc/Wikimedia Commons

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Igdir

Rank: 16

Country: Turkey

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 90µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 134.75µg/m3

The city is located close to the border of Azerbaijan and Iran. Despite the fact that it has three strategically important neighbours, the border gate to Armenia is closed and there is no direct access to Iran.

The major source of livelihood in Igdir is tourism as it has Turkey’s highest mountain.

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Image: A veterinary worker disinfects the gardens of the local people in Igdir, a Turkish town near Turkey's far eastern border with Armenia
Photographs: Anatolian/Reuters

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Ludhiana

Rank: 15

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 91µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 207µg/m3

Punjab’s largest city is witnessing rising pollution due to industries and vehicular traffic according to Centre for Science and Environment.

According to a report published in The Times of India, the number of asthma patients is on the rise in the city.

Ludhiana is one of the big industrial hub in North India. It is the largest bicycle manufacturing hub in Asia. It produces 60 per cent of India’s tractor parts and is also one of the largest manufacturers of sewing machines.

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Image: Clock Tower, Ludhiana.
Photographs: Courtesy, Ludhiana.nic.in

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Amritsar

Rank: 14

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 92µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 210µg/m3

Amritsar is the spiritual centre for the Sikh religion due to presence of The Golden Temple.

The rise in pollution levels has also affected the Gurdwara, and the main culprit for this is the rising vehicular traffic.

While describing the city, Lonely Planet says that ‘few places can compete with Amritsar when it comes to congestion, air-pollution and traffic noise’.

Amritsar’s main commercial activity include tourism, carpets and fabrics, farm produce, and handicrafts.

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Image: The Golden Temple, Amritsar.
Photographs: Nadisha Daniel/Rediff.com

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Kanpur

Rank: 13

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 93µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 211.67µg/m3

Kanpur is the most populous and second largest industrial city in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is famous for its tanneries and is also called as the Leather City of the world. And this industry has been the main source of pollution.

It was one of the main centres of industrial revolution and was known as Manchester of the East, according to Wikipedia.

Even today Kanpur has major factories producing textile, fertilizer, chemicals, two wheelers, soaps, and pan masala.

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Image: Kanpur.
Photographs: Mohd1998.knp/Wikimedia Commons

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Doha

Rank: 12

Country: Qatar

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 93µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 167.63µg/m3

The capital of Qatar, Doha is located on the coast of Persian Gulf. It's the largest city of the country, and has over 60 per cent of Qatar's population.

Much of Qatar's oil and natural gas wealth is visible in Doha, which is the country's economic centre. Doha is home to the headquarters of the country's largest oil and gas companies, including Qatar Petroleum, Qatargas and RasGas, according to Wikipedia.

According to media reports, the main culprit of pollution is industrialisation and growing migration.

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Image: A woman crosses Al Wahda street hosting the Navigation Tower, headquarters of Qatargas (R), and Rasgas tower (2nd R) in Doha.
Photographs: Fadi Al-Assaad/Reuters

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Firozabad

Rank: 11

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 96µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 218.5µg/m3

Located mere 40 km from Agra, Firozabad is known as the City of Bangle. It has a major glass industry producing products that include glass bangles and glass hardware so it is also known as Suhag Nagari, according to Wikipedia.

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Image: A boy stands beside a heap of joined bangles in Firozabad town, about 230 km (140 miles) southeast of New Delhi.
Photographs: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

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Lucknow

Rank: 10

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 96µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 219µg/m3

The capital of Uttar Pradesh, it is known as the city of Nawabs. Majority of Lucknow’s workforce is employed as public servants.

According to Assocham, it is the sixth fastest job creating cities in India.

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Image: A man walks in front of Buddha statues outside the Ambedkar memorial park in Lucknow.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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Ahmedabad

Rank: 9

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 100µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 67µg/m3

The former capital of Gujarat, Ahmedabad is the state’s largest city. With a population of more than 5.8 million and an extended population of 6.3 million, it is the fifth-largest city and seventh-largest metropolitan area of India, according to Wikipedia.

Forbes magazine rated it as the world's third fastest growing city.

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Image: Dancers dressed in traditional attire pose as they take part in rehearsals for the "Garba" dance ahead of Navratri festival in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Khorramabad

Rank: 8

Country: Iran

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 102µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 120.96µg/m3

Khorramabad is a city in and capital of Lorestan Province, Iran.

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Image: Islamic Azad University of Khorramabad.
Photographs: Beawiharta/Reuters

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Rawalpindi

Rank: 7

Country: Pakistan

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 107µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 448µg/m3

Rawalpindi is the fourth most populous urban area and is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in Pakistan.

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Image: Supporters of the PML-N hold the portrait of party leader Nawaz Sharif as they shout slogans during an election campaign rally in Rawalpindi.
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

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Peshawar

Rank: 6

Country: Pakistan

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 111µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 540µg/m3

Peshawar is situated in a large valley near the eastern end of the Khyber Pass, close to the Pak-Afghan border.

Peshawar has now evolved into one of Pakistan's most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities.

In the last three decades, there has been a significant increase in urban population, in part due to internal migration of people in search of better employment opportunities, education, and services, and in part because of the influx of Afghans displaced by military operations and civil unrest, according to Wikipedia.

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Image: Men pray before breaking their fast on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, at a mosque in Peshawar.
Photographs: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

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Karachi

Rank: 5

Country: Pakistan

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 117µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 273µg/m3

Karachi is the largest and most populous city of Pakistan. Capital of Sindh province, it is Pakistan's main seaport and financial centre.

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Image: Karachi.
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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Raipur

Rank: 4

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 134µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 305µg/m3

It is the capital of Chhattisgarh. It was formerly a part of Madhya Pradesh before the state of Chhattisgarh was formed on November 1, 2000.

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Image: Raipur Railway Station.
Photographs: AshishJaiswalRaipur/Wikimedia Commons

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Gwalior

Rank: 3

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 144µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 329µg/m3

Gwalior is a historical and major city in Madhya Pradesh. It enjoys being at a very strategic position as being a main junction on New Delhi - Chennai railroad and being on NH-3 and NH-75, according to Wikipedia.

It is also surrounded by three Industrial areas - Sitholi, Banmore and Malanpur. The important industries in the city include tourism, dairy, chemical, manufacturing, and textiles.

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Image: The Gwalior Fort.
Photographs: Rediff Archives

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Patna

Rank: 2

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 149µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 164µg/m3

The second largest city in eastern India, Patna had an estimated population of about 17 lakh, making it the 19th largest city in India.

The city has been a centre of trade for agricultural goods. Its most active exports include grain, sugarcane, sesame, and medium-grained Patna rice. There are multiple sugar mills still in existence in and around the city.

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Image: Gandhi Setu Bridge in Patna.
Photographs: Courtesy, Wikimedia Commons

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Delhi

Rank: 1

Country: India

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5): 153µg/m3

Levels of harmful particles in air that are less than 10 micrometres (PM10): 286µg/m3

Delhi, National Capital Territory of India, is India's largest city by land area and population. It is also the second most populous city in the world.


Image: Heavy traffic moves in front of the India Gate before Earth Hour in New Delhi.
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

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