The top 10 most polluted cities in the world in 2023

Sushree Behera

The ecosystem and the general public’s health are seriously threatened by air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 90% of the world’s population breathes air with high levels of pollutants. Among the most affected are the residents of certain cities that endure alarmingly high levels of air pollution. Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 most polluted cities grappling with this challenge.

1. Lahore, Pakistan

Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, is sadly known for its hazardous air quality. Industrial emissions, coupled with vehicular exhaust and the burning of solid waste, contribute to the city’s severe air pollution. Lahore has been facing significant air pollution issues.

Statistics show that 46.2% of the total fuel consumption in Lahore contributes to pollution. The thick blanket of smog that engulfs Lahore during the winter months has detrimental effects on public health, leading to respiratory illnesses and other health problems.

2. Hotan, China

Hotan, located in China’s Xinjiang province, has seen rapid urbanization and industrial growth. Unfortunately, this has resulted in deteriorating air quality.

The air quality in Hotan has been classified as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” according to the Air Quality Index (AQI). The region faces challenges in controlling dust and particulate matter, which significantly impact the respiratory health of its inhabitants.

3. Bhiwadi, India

Bhiwadi, an industrial hub in the Alwar district of Rajasthan, India, is grappling with worsening air pollution. It is also among the most polluted cities in India whose pollution is more than 20 times more than the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization. The pollution in Bhiwadi is caused by the approximately 2,000 factories established in the city.

4. Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, the vibrant capital city of Uganda, is unfortunately ranked among the most polluted cities in the world. According to a study conducted in 2015, air pollutant concentrations in Kampala are dangerously high, with PM2.5 concentrations ranging from 120.5 μg/m3 to 152.6 μg/m3.

Urgent measures are required to address this critical situation. Some of these measures include improving public transportation, promoting cleaner energy sources, and implementing strict emission control regulations.

5. Doha, Qatar

The flourishing metropolis and capital of Qatar, Doha, has earned renown for its opulent lifestyle and remarkable economic strides. However, this remarkable progress has come at a profound environmental toll.

Dust storms and emissions originating from both vehicular and industrial sources emerge as the primary perpetrators of air pollution that looms over Doha’s landscape. Disturbingly, Qatar finds itself among the most polluted countries worldwide, grappling with a distressing average PM2.5 concentration of 44.30 in 2019.

6. Chicago, USA

Chicago, the prominent American urban gem celebrated for its architectural splendor, rich culture, and economic eminence, harbors an air quality predicament of significant proportions.

On a specific date, June 27, 2023, the city earned the dubious honor of having the poorest air quality among 95 cities globally. IQAir revealed a staggering revelation that there were, on average, 14 ozone-deprived days between 2015-2017. This number surpassed the preceding year’s already troubling average of 9.8 days.

7. Beijing, China

Beijing, the ever-evolving Chinese capital, has witnessed rapid strides in economic prowess and urban development in recent decades. However, the price of progress has proven to be steep, manifesting in the form of severe air pollution.

Vehicular emissions and the combustion of coal to generate electricity primarily mar the city’s atmosphere. The manufacturing industry and population surge also conspire to influence Beijing’s air quality adversely. A special awareness program is required for the people living in these kinds of polluted cities.

Read also: Top 5 materials that absorb carbon emissions: how they mitigate air pollution

8. Darbhanga, India

Within India’s spectrum of concern, over 30 of the nation’s top 50 most polluted cities bear the onerous burden of environmental degradation, with Darbhanga nestled among them. The city grapples with the ominous consequences of amplified vehicular traffic and the unrelenting cacophony of industrial pursuits.

The resolute fight to maintain a healthy ecosystem for the city’s inhabitants has not come without challenges. Reportedly, Darbhanga’s Air Quality Index (AQI) has soared to alarming heights, with PM2.5 levels consistently exceeding the World Health Organisation’s recommended exposure limit by over 5 times.

9. Birganj, Nepal

Birganj, a thriving industrial enclave in Nepal, wrestles with the disheartening aftermath of relentless pollution, emanating predominantly from factories and brick kilns. The IQAir platform bemoans that in 2022, the average PM2.5 concentration in Nepal stood a staggering 8 times higher than the WHpolluted cities O’s annual air quality guideline value.

Positioned in the Central Region of Nepal, which stands among the nation’s worst-hit regions by air pollution, Birganj faces significant challenges in enforcing pollution control measures to preserve the well-being of its residents.

10. Kashgar, China

Kashgar, gracing the scenic Xinjiang region of China, finds itself ensnared in a relentless battle against soaring air pollution levels, a direct consequence of urbanization and industrial ventures. Notably, on the fateful day of July 12, 2023, the real-time Air Quality Index (AQI) in Kashgar recorded an unsettling 127, a classification labeled “poor” for air quality.

With cities elsewhere in China witnessing improvements, Kashgar and its counterpart Hotan in western Xinjiang continue to bear the burden of high pollution levels, necessitating earnest efforts to preserve public health.

Read more: What is the Urban Sequoia, the technological skyscraper that actively absorbs CO2 

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