Air pollution in India rises above Chinese levels, says Greenpeace

China’s efforts to combat pollution show ‘impressive improvement in air quality’

Buildings are seen surrounded in smog in Jinan, Shandong province in China in 2015. Photograph: Reuters

Buildings are seen surrounded in smog in Jinan, Shandong province in China in 2015. Photograph: Reuters


A new Greenpeace study shows that last year was the first year on record that the average Indian was exposed to more air pollution than the average Chinese.

Levels of the most harmful fine particulates, PM2.5 (short for “Particulate Matter up to 2.5 micrometres in size”), have fallen by 17 per cent in China between 2010 and 2015, while in India they have expanded by 13 per cent.

By comparison, in the United States they have fallen 15 per cent, and in the EU by 20 per cent in the period 2005-2013.

“Greenpeace analysis of satellite-based particulate matter measurements over the past decade shows that China’s systematic efforts to combat air pollution have achieved an impressive improvement in average air quality in the country in the past few years –although pollution levels remain alarmingly high,” Greenpeace India said in a report, Clean Air Action Plan: The Way Forward.

Greenpeace said the reduced levels were testimony to government efforts on a national level to tackle air pollution in China, including setting targets for air quality and for clean energy.

“In contrast, air pollution levels in India, and in particular North India, have risen rapidly, with 2015 being the most polluted year on record.”

According to the World Health Organisation, India is home to 13 out of

20 most polluted cities in the world with air pollution levels deteriorating during the past decade.

China still has more deaths per day from air pollution – 2,700 in 2013 compared to 1,800 in India (in the EU it was 640).

Last week, a government official said that air quality in Beijing has improved over the last two years despite the city’s first smog red-alert during the winter, when a blanket of air pollution shrouded the capital for more than three weeks.

“Many people feel things got worse, because the impression of the pollution in December remains very deep,” said city official Yu Jianhua.

Meanwhile, new research shows that air pollution has even wider health implications than previous thought, as it may lead to childhood obesity.

“In a rodent model, we found that breathing Beijing’s highly polluted air resulted in weight gain and cardiorespiratory and metabolic dysfunction.

“Compared to those exposed to filtered air, pregnant rats exposed to unfiltered Beijing air were significantly heavier at the end of pregnancy,” researchers said in a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

At 8 weeks old, the rodent offspring prenatally and postnatally exposed to unfiltered air were significantly heavier than those exposed to filtered air, the scientists found.