Beijing schools stayed shut, hospitals saw a spike in the number of cases of respiratory problems among citizens and the city made headlines globally thanks to a rise in air pollution, to the point that it was said to be life threatening.
According to official figures, PM 2.5 (tiny particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size) levels rose to 755 mg/cu m instead of the prescribed maximum of 500 mg/cu m. This particulate matter can penetrate deep into the lungs, and measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.
But before tut-tutting about Beijing’s standards of air, it’s important to realise that the situation isn’t much better in India.
A Times of India report says that on Monday, the highest value of 565 mg/cu m — considered very hazardous — was recorded at RK Puram in Delhi for about two hours. In November 2012, when the city was in the throes of its worst smog spell in recent years, PM2.5 levels were consistently over 500 mg/cu m over several places.
The Indian standard for this pollutant is 60 mg/cu m and Delhi is no exception.
A quick glance at World Health Organisation’s list of ten most polluted cities reveals that six of those cities are in the India sub-continent.
Lahore leads the list with its annual mean PM10 level at 200, followed by Delhi in the second place with it PM10 level at 198.
Other Indian cities include Kolkata at the fifth place and Mumbai at the eighth place. Beijing surprisingly is at number 10. The dangerous rise in the number cars in cities, rapid growth and urbanisation are considered the major causes of air pollution.