India is one of the most polluted countries in the world as evinced by the Taj Mahal’s changing colour
The World Health Organisation released a report on the world’s most polluted cities on 1 May. In 2016, pollution killed seven million people, mostly in the developing world. Overall, nine out of ten humans breathe poisoned air.
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India is one of the most polluted countries in the world, this according to the latest report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on Tuesday.
Fourteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India where the country’s Supreme Court urged the government to protect the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO heritage monument.
The WHO report notes that nine out of every ten humans breathe poisoned air, based on data collected from more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries, a thousand more cities than in the 2016 report.
The main indicators are particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10. The former includes toxins like sulphate and black carbon, which pose the greatest health risks. The latter are organic particles generated by human activity (combustion engine, tyre and brake wear) and natural phenomena (soil erosion, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, pollen dispersion).
The Indian cities with the highest PM2.5 are the federal capital Delhi; the Hindu holy city of Varanasi; Agra (Uttar Pradesh), home to the Taj Mahal; and Srinagar, the summer capital of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
For its part, the city of Gwalior (Mahya Pradesh) in 2012 reached levels of both PM10 and PM2.5 that were about 17 times higher than the WHO limit.
The report’s authors said that the global annual death toll of 7 million is largely unchanged from the previous levels. Of these, ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, whilst household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies was responsible for an estimated 3.8 million deaths.
The report notes that “exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system” cause “diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia”.
Research shows that in South Asia and South-East Asia, including India, household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution accounts for 34% or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths.
More than 90 per cent of deaths linked to air pollution occur in low- or middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, widening the gap between rich and poor nations.
Particularly worrying, about three billion people (40 per cent of the world’s population) still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes.
Pollution in India is such that the Indian Supreme Court spoke out on the issue, noting the worrying change in colour of the Taj Mahal, the monument to eternal love.
The government previously shuttered thousands of factories near the structure, but the latter is still losing its lustre.
What is worse is that 17th century monument is threatened by insects attracted by sewage in the nearby Yamuna River (pictures 1 and 4). They excrete waste onto the palace's walls, staining them.
For this reason, the monument is cleaned and restored on a regular basis, coated in a mud pack that is supposed to absorb dirt.