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Arvind Kejriwal gloats that Delhi is not among top 10 most polluted cities in the world, here is how he is misleading and cherrypicking data

The list was compiled using data that was gathered between January 29 and February 2 to create it.

On Thursday, February 16, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal gloated over Delhi being ‘removed’ from a list of the most polluted cities globally. CM Kejriwal congratulated the people of Delhi for their efforts and also said that there is a long way to bring Delhi to the list of the cleanest cities in the world.

In his tweet, Kejriwal shared a chart of the world’s most polluted cities by Hindustan Times and wrote, “After a long time, Delhi is not in the list of most polluted cities of the world. Efforts of Delhiites are slowly but surely paying off. Congrats Delhi! But its still a long way to go. We have to be counted in the cleanest cities of the world.”

In the list, Mumbai ranked second among the ten most polluted cities in the world, according to the Swiss air tracking index IQAir, a real-time global air quality monitor.

The list was compiled using data that was gathered between January 29 and February 2 to create it. According to the list, Mumbai is ranked as one of the second-most polluted cities in the world. Lahore, in Pakistan, came in the top place on the list. The list also included the names of the cities of Kabul, Kaohsiung, Bishkek, Accra, Krakow, Doha, Astana, and Santiago sequentially.

OpIndia, however, checked the latest rankings on IQAir and found that Delhi tops the list of the most polluted cities worldwide even as Kejriwal cherrypicked the data to pat his back. 

In the latest live ranking, Delhi is at the top followed by Lahore and Bishkek, and at number 4 is ranked Mumbai, other than Delhi and Mumbai, Kolkata has also made it to the top 10 ranking at number 9. 

Image via IQAir

While CM Kejriwal boasts Delhi not being among the top 10, the fact remains unchanged that Delhi has been consistently struggling with poor air quality and pollution. 

Delhi remains the most polluted capital

An article by IQAir details why the air quality of India’s national capital remains the most polluted in the world. The article notes that smoke produced during the stubble burning season along with several urban sources work as a deadly combination resulting in the ‘worst air quality on the earth.’

Moreover, it is also pointed out that Delhi’s annual air pollution is 19 times greater than the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline. It is notable that in 2021, the WHO revised its average PM2.5 (particulate matter measuring 2.5) guidelines

Even as you read this article, the air quality of the national capital remains severe. Even during the time period of January 29 and February 2, Delhi’s air quality fluctuated between severe (301-400), unhealthy (201-300), and poor (101-200) as per the data by New Delhi Air Quality Index.

Graphics via aqi.in

Stubble burning

The Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has for years been blaming the neighbouring Punjab and Haryana and the central government for the pollution caused by stubble (Parali) burning in these states. However, even after securing power in Punjab in the last state assembly elections, it has been seen how the Aam Aadmi Party has miserably failed at curbing pollution and improving air quality. 

It was reported in October 2022 year that the state of Punjab witnessed around 8147 incidents of stubble burning from September 15 to October 27. The state also recorded a 20% increase in such incidents in comparison to the number of farm fires in the same period last year, affecting the quality of air in the major parts of Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

Despite the burning issue of farmer fires, the Punjab Assembly shelved the discussion on the topic. “The issue was not taken up as most of the sitting went into discussing the alleged usurping of SC scholarship funds to the tune of ₹64 crores by the previous Congress party government,” reported Hindustan Times on October 3, 2022.

In November last year, the AQI level went up in almost all zones in the city-state, with many places registering AQI above 500. 

In its assessment, the Central panel noted that the AAP-led Punjab Government took negligible steps to control stubble burning. The Centre pointed out the bio-decomposers’ field experiments were successful in UP, Haryana, and Delhi. No efforts were made in Punjab by the state government to employ the technique for stubble management. Furthermore, while Haryana and Uttar Pradesh opted for bio-decomposer usage across 5,00,000 acres and 138,000 acres, respectively, Punjab used it only in 7,500 acres. Nurture Farms used another bio decomposer in another 250,000 acres in the state through a CSR initiative. The panel added that not only bio-decomposer but also the government failed to deploy residue management machines effectively. There was inadequate implementation of public sensitization over the matter. 

Recently, CM Kejriwal while speaking about the different causes of rising pollution in the national capital at the opening of a real-time pollution data analyzer supersite in Delhi said that biomass burning is responsible for one-fifth of the state’s pollution, which rises considerably during the cold months when security guards and drivers burn wood and other biomass, leading the city to become a gas chamber due to temperature anomaly. He said that when security guards and car drivers at night burn wood to keep themselves warm in the winter seasons, it causes severe air pollution in the capital city.

Cracker ban and pollution persist in Delhi 

For the past four years, the Kejriwal government in Delhi has been banning the manufacture and sale of firecrackers on the occasion of the Hindu festival of Diwali as it is apparently an easier thing to do than to chalk out an action plan to address the issue of stubble burning effectively. 

A day after Diwali last year which is 25th October 2022, despite a firecracker ban, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) stood at a ‘very poor’ level even though it was reported that it was better than in previous years.

On October 24, 2022, CM Kejriwal took the opportunity to pat his back as he credited his government for supposedly improving the air quality in the National Capital.

He shared a news article claiming that Delhi has been removed from the list of Asia’s most polluted cities. The Delhi Chief Minister made the claim that India’s National Capital was no longer polluted.

“Some years back, Delhi was the most polluted city in the world. Not anymore! The people of Delhi worked very hard. Today, we have improved a lot. Whereas we have improved, it’s still a long way. We will continue working hard so that we find a place in the best cities in the world,” Kejriwal tweeted.

The Delhi CM has had an old habit of cherrypicking data to hog the limelight, and deliberately ignoring overall facts. Notably, in the year 2021, IQAir published a report wherein New Delhi featured at the top of a list of 107 regional capital cities with the highest average annual PM2.5 concentration that year.

The Swiss air quality technology company collected data from 6,745 cities, spread across 117 countries to prepare the report.

“India’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 in 2021, ending a three-year trend of improving air quality. India’s annual PM2.5 averages have now returned to pre-quarantine concentrations measured in 2019,” the report asserted.

The air quality report pointed out that in 2021, India was home to 11 out of the 15 most polluted cities in South and Central Asia. During that period, PM2.5 levels in Delhi increased from 84 μg/m to 96.4 μg/m3.

Graphics via IQAir

While Kejriwal may continue to present data selectively and gain attention, the fact remains unchanged that Delhi’s pollution continues to pose a threat to the health of the citizens.

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