Indian cities most polluted in Asia

People living in Indian cities New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune have been breathing some of the most polluted air in Asia, but Jakarta and China's Chongqing are also bad, a conference heard yesterday. Rapid industrial growth and streets choked with cars put Asian cities among the worst in the world, said Michael Carter, World Bank country director in India, on the opening day of a global environment meeting. "There has been dramatic progress in New Delhi and Mumbai in the past year to have better air quality but unfortunately the story remains that both these Indian cities have dangerously high levels of suspended particles in the air," Carter told the annual "Better Air Quality" conference.

"Several Asian cities have to use cleaner fuels and enforce stringent emission norms for cars. "We tend to ignore the fact that air pollution is the second biggest cause of maternal and child mortality," he warned. "India has a particularly serious problem in terms of indoor air pollution from smoke rising from stoves and fires inside homes," Carter said.

According to a joint World Bank and Asian Development Bank study of air pollution for 20 major Asian cities between 2000 and 2003, the level of suspended particulate matter considered the most dangerous pollutant was above World Health Organisation (WHO) mandated safety limits in at least 10. For the most hazardous of these particles -- those under 10 microns in diameter which can penetrate a face mask -- New Delhi has three times Hong Kong's level, the study shows. New Delhi topped the list with spikes of between 350 and 800 micrograms of suspended particulates per cubic metre (AFP, Agra, The Daily Star, December 07, 2004).

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