Do you think the pollution in Beijing is the worst in the world? This list might surprise you. Find out the top 20 Most Polluted Cities in the World.
In this age of an industrialized world it’s no wonder that the condition of the air has become dangerous for people, especially in some cities of the world. Over the centuries and millennia that people have existed on this planet, they seem not to have understood the simplest rule of it which is – caring for it and not polluting it in any way because nature itself has given us everything and if we keep on destroying it, there’ll come a day when we won’t be able to breathe on this earth.
Unfortunately, everything seems to be leading to the worst as the level of pollution in a number of cities keeps getting higher. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the air pollution has increased by 8% worldwide in the last 5 years which has resulted in about 3 million premature deaths a year.
As of the 2016 report of the WHO there is an annual average concentration of particular matter – PM across 3000 cities from 103 countries. In these cities the amount of high toxic substances is incredibly high in the atmosphere the reasons for which are varying – starting from poor city planning and population explosion up to extreme outflow of waste. The more polluted the air the higher the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Below you can find 20 of the most polluted cities in the world most of which are situated in Middle East, China and India. But if you think that Beijing is the worst city on earth you are wrong: it doesn’t even make it to the top 20.
Please keep in mind that this ranking differs from the one developed by Greenpeace because it does not only consider air quality. If we consider only this factor, the most polluted country in the world is India.
1. Onitsha, Nigeria
Well, for an African city Onitsha is highly industrialized and this has resulted in increasing levels of air pollution. In this city the air quality is 30 times worse than the limit stated by the World Health Organization. It’s easy to guess that the air has lost its quality to this degree because of construction, traffic, diesel smoke and deficiency in proper methods of waste disposal.
2. Peshawar, Pakistan
Pakistan seems to be the country that has many cities with polluted air worth mentioning in this list. Peshawar is, in fact, the second most polluted city in the world after Onitsha. The emission of carbon dioxide reaches the dangerous amount of 23 particles per million while the boundary determined by the World Health Organization is 10 ppm.
3. Linfen, China
China seems to be leading the lists of countries with polluted air though it’s practically the only one that has actually taken actions to improve the air quality and these actions have shown results in the last few years which is really praiseworthy. However, it still has major air pollution problems in one of its cities called Linfen which is why it appears to be in this list too. While you would think that the most polluted city in China must be Beijing, we have to tell you that Linfen has surpassed it in the degree of high air pollution. This city is situated right at the heart of China’s coal industry. What’s more ironical is that Linfen was once known as “the fruit and flower town” while now it has so bad of a polluted air that, as estimated, breathing it equals to smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day.
4. Chernobyl, Ukraine
It’s probably been expected that the notorious Chernobyl would be included in this list. Despite the fact that so many years have passed after the infamous nuclear disaster of 1986, the air in Chernobyl still remains threatening to the health. However, the city is mostly uninhabited now but the radioactive material is still found in soil.
5. Rawalpindi, Pakistan
I don’t recommend a visit to this Pakistani city, especially if you have respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Rawalpindi is known for its steel rolling mills, leather tanning facilities, marble factories and oil refineries all of which have their “contribution” to the high level of air pollution there.
6. Zabol, Iran
Where there is extreme poverty, the pollution is an unavoidable factor. Zabol, a city situated in the Eastern part of Iran, is known for its high degrees of poverty and pollution. The city has to face the so called “120 days of wind” which results in great amounts of dust that covers the whole city. Zabol also has the largest degree of particular matter thus resulting in the extremely bad condition of air making it hard for people to live, let alone live and stay healthy.
7. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Being the country’s largest city Riyadh is also considered to be its dirtiest spot. Not only do the high industrial waste and heavy traffic pollute the air with different dangerous chemicals, but the nature itself contributes to it by bringing frequent sandstorms to the city. The good thing is that such local institutions as the Ministry of Health, the National Water Co. and the Higher Commission of Development of Riyadh have decided to start taking some practical and realistic actions in order to reduce the pollution of the air.
8. Kabwe, Zambia
This Zambian city has high amounts of lead pollution which has resulted in about 300.000 people being affected by it every day. The worst thing is that children are especially vulnerable to this and they are the ones mostly affected by it. All the lead mining, smelting and tannery operations which dispose waste in highly improper ways have completely changed the earth and air condition of the city within the last 90 years making it so polluted that there is very little hope that it will be possible to have a clean air one day again.
9. Dzershinsk, Russia
Dzershinsk is a former chemical and biological weapons manufacturing city so obviously it was supposed to be included in this list. Starting from the 1930s up to the 1990s the Soviet Union released nearly 300.000 tons of chemical waste in and around this Russian city and they didn’t even take into consideration the fact that Dzershinsk had a population of about 245.000 at that time. The results and consequences of are still worrying nowadays though the Russian government is trying to take actions by funding the cleaning of the city.
10. New Delhi, India
This list wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include India in it. It’s quite “famous” for high levels of pollution and contaminated air. Despite the fact that a lot of other Indian cities have increasing levels of air pollution, New Delhi is the one leading the list. The smog level in New Delhi is frequently 5 times above the level of what would be considered healthy. In addition to this, a thick layer of smoke is often seen hanging over the city.
11. Kaduna, Nigeria
Here is again Nigeria with another of its cities known for high degrees of air pollution. Kaduna is situated in the northwestern part of the country and the particular matter in its air has long surpassed the boundary estimated by the WHO. Nigeria generally can be considered polluted wholly because as of a 2015 World Bank report, 94% of Nigeria’s population is under the threats of air pollution.
12. Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan
Being the third largest city of Afghanistan, Mazar-e-Sharif is also one of the most air polluted, if not the most polluted city of the country. The city has high concentration of particulate matter and a variety of dangerous chemicals that together result in the poor and unhealthy quality of the air.
13. Gwalior, India
Here is another Indian city that’s known worldwide for its high levels of air pollution. The amount of particulate matter concentration in the city is 329 mgs per cubic meters which is, of course, much higher than the benchmark of 60 mgs estimated by the WHO.
The air pollution keeps increasing and the reasons for it are various including uncontrolled and badly managed automobile emissions and the high density of the population.
14. Allahabad, India
It seems like India is the most polluted country on earth as the number of cities with high air pollution levels dominate our list. The particulate matter concentration here is about 317 mgs per cubic meter which means that this city is not very far behind Gwalior. The health situation of people keeps worsening on a daily basis and the cases of such health problems and diseases as dust allergy, asthma and lung cancer have risen in number in recent years.
15. Tetovo, Macedonia
Well, let’s for a moment stop “discrediting” Middle Eastern and South Asian countries and come to Europe because the latter is far from being perfect as well. Tetovo is probably the most polluted and contaminated city in Europe. It lacks both breathable air and drinkable water. The wrongly monitored industrial waste has been transmitted into water and air and greatly damaged its quality. Despite the fact that Tetovo is surrounded with mountains which are supposed to contribute to the cleanliness of the air, the pollution keeps increasing and the residents of the city suffer from burning eyes, dry throats and breathing issues. When I visited Macedonia I did notice that the country in general seems to be quite polluted.
16. Cairo, Egypt
Time and people have turned this ancient and richly cultured city into one of the most polluted spots of the world. Nearly 35.000 people die annually because of the low quality of the air. The heavy traffic, industrial toxins and the desert dust have resulted in high amounts of emissions of Sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and invisible gases. All these chemicals form a kind of black cloud over the city in recent years.
17. Lima, Peru
Let’s now move to South America because one of its well known cities and the capital city of Peru is far from having a healthy quality of air. Lima has an increased degree of polluted air mostly because of the fumes emitted by the public transport. According to official data nearly 5000 people died from the polluted and contaminated air during the 2007-2011 period.
18. Shijiazhuang, China
However much China tries to clean its holistically polluted air, it still remains known for having cities with highly contaminated atmosphere in the world. This is mostly because of the fact that the country has lots industrial plants and factories. One of those Chinese cities infamously known for unhealthy and polluted air is Shijiazhuang situated in the Northern part of the country. The city is home to a number of steel and cement plants that utilize coal thus causing high amounts of air pollution.
19. Bushehr, Iran
This coastal Iranian city is also known for poor quality of air. The main reason for this is that Bushehr is home to Middle East’s first civilian nuclear plant which causes high levels of air and water contamination. Not to mention the fact that the particulate matter here has also long exceeded the amount that’s considered healthy according to the WHO.
20. Accra, Ghana
The last city in the list with the most polluted air in the world is Accra. Here again comes the problem of improper disposing of used material, in this case we mean used electronics. The toxic fumes emitted as a result of wrong disposal of used electronic goods have completely polluted the air of this city. An estimated amount of 129.000 tons of waste is disposed of annually. Sometimes this waste is burnt in aims of harvesting the remaining copper. The negative impacts of this practice didn’t make people wait too long – the lead and mercury released into the atmosphere as a result of it, contaminate and pollute the air thus affecting the 250.000 residents of the city.
Here I mentioned only 20 of the most polluted cities in the world however many of them remained out of the spotlight. The air pollution is the problem of the whole mankind and if WE don’t start treating this problem more seriously and taking actions against its expansion then soon WE might have to live in a world of unbreathable air and undrinkable water. Nature is the utmost miracle given to the human race and no matter how hopeless the situation seems today we should hope for the best and have our own little contribution in its preservation because only due to nature can we have clean air. The cleaner the air the less the risks for a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases! Keep the nature alive, nurture it and it will give you the most precious and valuable rewards that no type of manmade industry has ever given.
Have you been in one of these cities? Where’s the most polluted place you have ever visited?
If you need some inspiration for some good places to visit don’t miss this post: The top 50 places to travel this year.