Top 10 Most Polluted Countries and Cities in the World 2023

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In IQAir’s 5th Annual World Air Quality Report for 2022, air quality experts analyzed data from more than 30,000 monitoring stations located in 131 countries, territories, and territories across 7,323 regions. The report reveals data on the most polluted countries, regions, and regions worldwide.

▪ Swiss company IQAir’s ‘Global Air Quality’ study for 2022 has revealed that India’s ranking as the world’s most polluted country has dropped from fifth to eighth. Despite this improvement, the study indicates that PM2.5 levels in India’s most polluted cities remain at 53.3, significantly higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline of 5 μg/m3.

Most Polluted Country in The World

▪ According to the report, Chad, a landlocked country located at the crossroads of North and Central Africa, holds the position of the most polluted country in the world. It is followed by Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Bangladesh. Here is the list of the top 10 most polluted countries worldwide:

10 Most Polluted Countries in the World

RankCountry
1Chad
2Iraq
3Pakistan
4Bahrain
5Bangladesh
6Burkina Faso
7Kuwait
8India
9Egypt
10Tajikistan

Most Polluted City in the World

▪ The list of most polluted cities is topped by Lahore in Pakistan and Hotan in China, with Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi following closely in third place.

Delhi ranks fourth on the list, with reports indicating that its PM2.5 levels are almost 20 times higher than the safe limit. Here is the list of the top 10 most polluted cities worldwide:

10 Most Polluted Cities in the World

RankCityCountry
1LahorePakistan
2HotanChina
3BhiwadiIndia
4DelhiIndia
5PeshawarPakistan
6DarbangaIndia
7AsopurIndia
8N’DjamenaChad
9New DelhiIndia
10PatnaIndia
top 10 most polluted Cities in the world
top 10 most polluted Cities in the world

Countries that meet WHO PM2.5 Guideline

▪ A total of 118 (90%) out of 131 countries and regions exceeded the WHO annual PM2.5 guideline value of 5 µg/m3. Only five countries – Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, and New Zealand – met the World Health Organization’s PM2.5 guideline, which is an annual average of 5 µg/m3 or less.

List of Countries that meet WHO PM2.5 Guideline

Sl.NoCountry
1Australia
2Estonia
3Finland
4Grenada
5Iceland
6New Zealand

Most Polluted City in India

▪ According to a recent report, Bhiwadi, a planned city located in the Alwar district of the Indian state of Rajasthan, is currently the most polluted city in India. Following Bhiwadi, Delhi ranks as the second most polluted city in India, followed by Asopur, New Delhi, and Patna. According to the report, Delhi’s PM2.5 level is almost 20 times the safe limit.

Number of Indian Cities in top 100 List

▪ The recently released ‘World Air Quality Report’ by Swiss firm IQAir reveals that six Indian cities are ranked in the top 10, 14 in the top 20, 39 in the top 50, and a staggering 65 in the top 100. This is an increase from the previous year’s count of 61 Indian cities in the top 100

Top 10 Polluted Cities in India

RankMost Polluted City
1Bhiwadi
2Delhi
3Darbhanga
4Asopur
5New Delhi
6Patna
7Ghaziabad
8Dharuhera
9Chapra
10Muzaffarnagar

Most Polluted Metro Cities in India

▪ According to the report, Kolkata was the second-most polluted city among the six metro cities in India, with Delhi topping the list. Chennai was reported to be the cleanest with pollution levels only five times the WHO’s safe level. On the other hand, Hyderabad and Bengaluru have experienced an increase in pollution levels above the average since 2017.

India’s Pollution Problem Continues in 2022

▪ According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the safe annual average PM2.5 level should be 5 µg/m3 or less. However, in 2022, India’s average PM2.5 level was 53.3 µg/m3, more than 10 times higher than the safe limit and only slightly lower than the 2021 average of 58.1.

▪ According to a recent report, 12 of the 15 most polluted cities in Central and South Asia in 2022 were Indian. Bhiwadi, located in Rajasthan, was the most polluted city in India, with annual PM2.5 levels of 92.7 µg/m3. The report reveals that 60 percent of Indian cities included in the study experienced at least seven times higher annual PM2.5 levels than the WHO guideline.

▪ The report states that in India, the transport sector contributes 20-35% of PM2.5 pollution, while other sources include industrial units, coal-fired power plants, and biomass burning.

Worst Offender

▪ The IQAir’s ‘Global Air Quality’ study found that two Indian cities, Bhiwadi in Awar, Rajasthan, and Delhi, made the list of the most polluted cities in the world, with PM2.5 levels of 92.7 and 92.6 respectively. Surprisingly, 39 of the 50 cities in the list of most polluted cities are in India.

Bhiwadi in Alwar, Rajasthan was the most polluted city in India, with annual PM2.5 levels of 92.7 μg/m3, making it the second-most polluted in the Central and South Asia region in 2022.

▪ Delhi was not far behind with PM2.5 levels of 92.6 μg/m3. 90.3 and 90.2 by Darbhanga and Danapur in Bihar respectively. Other Indian cities in the list of 15 most polluted cities in the region include Patna, Ghaziabad, Dharuhera, Chapra, Muzaffarnagar, Greater Noida, Bahadurgarh, and Faridabad.

A Terrible Picture

▪ The report also revealed that “nearly 60 percent of the cities in India covered in this report experienced annual PM2.5 levels at least seven times higher than WHO guidelines“.

Bright Spot

▪ However, at least seven Indian cities are among the least polluted cities in the region: Tarakeswar, Digboi, Aladi, Kattupalli, Polampalle, Kharsawan, and Muttayapuram.

Room for Improvement

▪ Although air quality monitoring has increased in India over the past few years, the report’s authors stressed that the country “still lacks the capacity to track progress on reduction strategies through effective and reliable emissions inventories“. India must improve its emissions inventory tracking to measure the effectiveness of its reduction strategies in fighting pollution.

Key Findings of the Report in a Nutshell

▪ Most Polluted City in the World – Lahore (Pakistan) [followed by Hotan (China)]

▪ Most Polluted City in India – Bhiwadi [Followed by Delhi and Darbhanga ]

▪ Most Polluted Country in the World – Chad [Followed by Iraq and Pakistan]

▪ Most Polluted Metropolitan City in India – Kolkata

▪ Chile became home to eight of the region’s – top 15 most polluted cities.

▪ Las Vegas was deemed the cleanest major city in the – U.S.

▪ California was home to 10 of the 15 most polluted cities in the – U.S.

▪ The most polluted city in the U.S. was – Coffeyville, Kansas.

▪ The most polluted major U.S. city was – Columbus, Ohio.

▪ The region of Central and South Asia was home to eight of the world’s – ten cities with the worst air pollution.

▪ Six countries met the WHO PM2.5 guideline (annual average of 5 µg/m3 or less) – Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, and New Zealand.

▪ A total of 118 (90%) out of 131 countries and regions exceeded the – WHO annual PM2.5 guideline value of 5 µg/m3.

▪ The African continent saw an increase from 13 countries represented in 2021 to 19 countries included in this year’s report, but only 19 countries out of 54 have sufficient air quality data, making it the most underrepresented continent.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Which is the most polluted city in the world?

Answer: Lahore (Pakistan)

Q2. Which is the most polluted country in the world?

Answer: Chad

Q3. Which is the most polluted city in India?

Answer: Bhiwadi


Q4. Which of the following is the most polluted city in Asia?

Answer: Lahore (Pakistan)

Q5. Which is the most polluted metropolitan city in India?

Answer: Kolkata

To conclude

In conclusion, many people worldwide are unaware that they are breathing polluted air, which poses a significant threat to their health. Hard data provided by the world’s top 10 most polluted cities and countries, including India, can serve as a powerful tool to motivate communities to demand change and hold polluters accountable. However, it is important to ensure that air quality monitoring is consistent and comprehensive to avoid leaving vulnerable communities with insufficient data to act on. Ultimately, every person has the right to breathe clean air and live a healthy life, and it is our collective responsibility to protect the air we breathe.

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