90 per cent of the planet is breathing in polluted air

A toxic haze engulfed Delhi for more than a week in November 2017

The average PM 2.5 levels were, however, recorded at 143 micrograms per cubic metre - the worst since 2010, when Delhi was ranked as the most polluted city in the world with an average concentration of 141 micrograms per cubic metre.

It is noteworthy that nearly 1 million vehicles are added on the roads of Delhi every year and in spite of increased construction activities and vehicular movement, air quality in Delhi is showing signs of improvement.

Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figured in a WHO list of 20 most-polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels.

Lucknow is just five units behind Delhi, which has been ranked sixth, with the pollution levels of 138 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

BBC analysis of the study shows the northern city of Kanpur tops the list of world cities with the highest PM2.5 levels in 2016.

A new World Health Organization report shows India is home to 14 of the world's most polluted cities, and some Indian government officials aren't happy about it.

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It's a problem that affects more than 40 per cent of the world's population - some three billion people - a situation that the WHO Director-General described as "unacceptable".

Covering more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries, the data points to an estimated 4.2 million deaths each year caused by outdoor air pollution, with 3.8 million fatalities overall, owing to household pollutants, linked to cooking. The WHO also said that the countries are also taking the required measures to curb the negative effects. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of deaths globally and in the region, and air pollution contributes significantly to NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and lung cancer. If steps are not taken to control pollution levels in these cities it would create a Delhi-like situation.

"We know there is a strong link between poor air quality and heart health with nearly six in ten global deaths (58%) related to outdoor air pollution caused by a heart attack or stroke". But other pollution sources, including construction dust and the burning of crop stubble in the winter, continue unchecked.

Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean saw the highest levels of air pollution, according to the study.

"The good news is that we are seeing more and more governments increasing commitments to monitor and reduce air pollution as well as more global action from the health sector and other sectors like transport, housing and energy", he said.

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