90 per cent of the planet is breathing in polluted air

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The World Health Organization report states that the Uttar Pradesh city is the most polluted in the world with an annual PM2.5 average of 173 micrograms per cubic metre (g/m3) and an annual PM10 (particulate matter of 10 micrometres or less in diametre) average of 319 (g/m3).

The WHO report said more than 90 percent of the world´s people are breathing unsafe levels of pollutants that killed some seven million people in 2016.

Air pollution isn't a new problem for India.

Of the 20 most polluted cities, 14 are in India, while two cities - Peshawar and Rawalpindi - are in Pakistan.

The Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were: Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Lucknow, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.

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In a call for Member States to take action urgently, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, warned that air pollution "threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalised people bear the brunt of the burden".

He said various states have filed action plan to combat worsening air quality and claimed that everything was under control, but 14 cities still figured in the list of 20 most polluted.

Although there are major gaps on air pollution data from regions including the Western Pacific and Africa - where information was available in only eight out of 47 countries on the continent - the World Health Organization chief noted that the worldwide community was "starting to pay attention and take action" on air pollution, recognizing it as a threat to sustainable development. For PM10, Varanasi ranked the sixth most polluted in the world. "The government has also taken several bold initiatives, including leap-frogging from BS-IV to BS-VI", it said.

The pollution levels in these cities is scary and is responsible for most of the health hazards one faces. It is reporting improvements in air quality thanks to focused policies combined with strict nationwide enforcement, including source-wise action to reduce emissions. Nearly 9 out of the 10 people breathe polluted air and is the most unsafe.

More than 90 per cent of victims come from low- and middle-income countries in Asia and Africa, followed by others in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas. But other pollution sources, including construction dust and the burning of crop stubble in the winter, continue unchecked.