Delhi air pollution worse than Mumbai, shows latest IQ Air data

There has been much talk in recent months about the sudden increase in pollution in Mumbai, which has surpassed the much-discussed pollution in Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, even released a global ranking that ranked Mumbai second, claiming that the national capital has escaped the list of the world’s most polluted cities for the first time in a long time.

While air quality has undoubtedly deteriorated in Mumbai, new data from IQ Air shows different and worrying trends in relation to the true reality.

According to a report by NDTV, the new data showed pollution levels in the national capital were twice as high as in India’s financial hub Mumbai.

This is based on the pollutant content of PM 2.5, the microscopic and dangerous fine dust (PM) that can bypass the human body’s defenses and lodge deep in the lungs and other organs.

The latest figures show that air pollution in Delhi was higher than in Mumbai every month in 2022, particularly in November and December, when Mumbai’s air pollution levels first grabbed the headlines for exceeding levels in the national capital.

And it didn’t happen recently. Compared to Mumbai, Delhi has had an average annual PM 2.5 concentration of 45 micrograms per cubic meter over the past four years.

The sea breeze usually helps the coastal city by clearing pollution, mainly from traffic, construction works and road dust. Doctors have noticed an increase in respiratory infections this winter, particularly among children.

According to the data, PM 2.5 levels rose 18 percent in November and December from a year earlier. The government data also showed that the increase in November was significantly larger, reaching more than 60 percent.

The data further shows how far both cities are from the safe PM 2.5 level of just 5 micrograms per cubic metre.

In November and December last year, Delhi exceeded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) limit for safe air quality by about 40 times and Mumbai by about 16 times – both extremely unhealthy.

Why is air quality falling?

Emissions and particulate matter are the main causes of poor air quality. Emissions cannot be caused by weather or climate. Cities like Delhi are in a difficult position as they are surrounded on all sides by landlocked countries.

Mumbai, on the other hand, is a coastal city that benefits from natural purification. Stronger surface breezes remove air pollutants from the land and bring in fresh air.

However, scientists have recently shown that air quality is declining even in coastal areas due to climate change patterns. Temperatures are rising and there are more storms.

This year’s La Nina phenomenon in Mumbai delayed the reversal of clean sea winds in the city and adjacent areas. This affected the city’s natural purification mechanism, and there was a higher concentration of fine dust due to high-flying dust emissions. In addition, import of transboundary air pollution from more polluted locations due to changes in wind patterns has contributed to deteriorating air quality in Mumbai.

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