Reports have shown that ‘South Asia has some of the most toxic air’, and we have to act shocked – as if we did not know. As most of African and Middle-Eastern nations lack real-time air quality monitoring, it cannot be said with ‘absolute certainty’ that our region is the ‘worst’ – however, what can be said with certainty is our region is blanketed with ‘toxic air particles’.
From the data presented, Bangladesh as a nation has the worse air – it ranked first with an average 97 µg/m³ of PM 2.5 particles concentration in the air. Gurugram (earlier Gurgaon) of India is the world’s most polluted city. In a shocking revelation, 15 of the top 20 polluted cities in the world were from India – all of them from surrounding states of the Indian capital. Pakistan’s Faisalabad ranked third, and China’s Hotan ranked 8th.
Kathmandu’s air quality has deteriorated – in 2017 it showed an average of 45.9 µg/m³ of PM 2.5 concentration whereas in 2018, the average rose to 54.4. Kathmandu ranked 8th in the world’s most polluted capitals.
The report was released by Greenpeace and IQAir AirVisual, a software company that tracks air quality data. In their report they have said “air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to health today, estimated to contribute to 7 million premature deaths every year. Polluted air presents the world’s 4th leading contributing cause of early deaths, and burdens the global economy with an estimated annual cost of $225 billion (USD).
The air quality index was calculated upon the presence of PM2.5 pollutants in the air. PM2.5 means particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers, so small that they can stay airborne for days, travelling hundreds or thousands of kilometres. Their small size means that once inhaled they penetrate deep into the lungs and pass from the lungs further into the bloodstream, affecting blood and internal organs, and increasing the risk of a wide range of diseases. According to health experts, most PM2.5-related deaths are not from respiratory causes but from cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart disease.