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India racks up health-care costs and productivity losses from pollution of as much as 8.5 per cent of gross domestic product, according to the World Bank. The data says Delhi had an average yearly PM 2.5 concentration at 113.5 micrograms per cubic metre.

The calculations were made considering the presence of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 in the atmosphere and 3000 cities were evaluated. While Delhi is the most polluted capital, Gurugram tops the list of the most polluted cities in the world, according to a Greenpeace report. While the research shows that no level of exposure is safe, the WHO standard of 10 units indicates the mean exposure threshold to minimise the health impacts.

The report also stated that Bangladesh, on average, was the most polluted nation, followed closely by Pakistan and India. It noted that although South Asian countries and China were the worst affected, air pollution is a global issue. The first 50 cities in the list are from India, China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The report said New Delhi's toxic air was caused by vehicle and industrial emissions, smoke from burning rubbish and crop residue, and dust from construction sites.

This paints a picture of a degenerate state of South East Asia with all 20 cities featured on Greenpeace's data belonging to the area.

The report has analysed eight cities of the state based on 2018 air quality data from public monitoring sources, including government as well as private monitoring networks.

In other parts of the world, 10 cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo, plus four in Turkey had PM2.5 levels that were three times greater than the World Health Organization guidelines. "We still don't know the magnitude of air pollution problem in terms of PM2.5 monitoring", he said. Climate change alters atmospheric conditions in multiple ways, for instance, reducing the wind speed that prevents pollutants from dispersing. India has a lot of cities with high levels of pollution.

The alarming revelations of the report make the successful implementation of environment ministry's National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) all the more important. The time is ripe for even more ambitious targets and effective mitigation action.