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Feb 10, 2014 at 08:49am IST

Delhi beats Beijing as the world's most polluted city

New Delhi: Delhi has beaten Beijing to the dubious title of world's most polluted city as the air pollution is literally choking this city. It has been tagged as having the worst air quality in the world, beating Beijing in terms of particulate matter pollution which causes cancer and various asthmatic and respiratory problems.

Data from the CSE shows that between October 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014, Delhi met the bare minimum for breathable air for just three days. On all other days in the 4-month period, Delhi's air quality in terms of Particulate Matter 2.5 was hazardous.

Beijing has for long been infamous for its very visible haze, but data now shows that Delhi's air pollution, though less visible, is just as insidious. The biggest offendors are vehicles, especially diesel vehicles and dust raised by construction. While Beijing has made massive gains in curtailing pollution, Delhi has lagged far behind. Experts say the problem lies in implementation.

"The scale of pollution, the pace of pollution, the scare of pollution should force us to take drastic steps and that's what I hope the government will wake up to," said Sunita Narain, Director-General, CSE.

"Somewhere you feel that we have slowed down when you contrast with what has happened in Beijing since 2008," said Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director, Research and Development CSE and Head of Air Pollution, Clean Transportation Campaign.

Experts say Delhi has to limit the number of vehicles, introduce steeper parking rates, improve public transport to include last mile connectivity, impose an annual road tax, improve fuel and auto technology and keep CNG prices lower than diesel.

"We need to refine the fuel and remove the sulfur content. Right now its units are about 500, you need to bring it down to 10," said Professor of Climate Sciences, University of California Dr V Ramanathan. "We need major technological breakthroughs to address Delhi's urban transportation problem, which is really at the root of Delhi's air pollution problem," Dr Prodipto Ghosh of TERI added.

While there is consensus on solutions to bring down air pollution, the real problem is the absence of political leadership. "There's certainly a need for politicians with a strong political will to induce a transformation," said Dr Lee, Nobel Laureate, International Council Science, Taiwan.