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Pakistan Ranked Second Most Polluted Country in 2023 Air Quality Rankings

Annual IQAir report ranks Bangladesh as most polluted country, while India trails in third

by Staff Report

File photo. Arif Ali—AFP

Pakistan was ranked the second most polluted country in 2023, trailing behind Bangladesh and just ahead of India, with its average concentration of PM2.5 recorded at 73.7 micrograms/cubic meter, more than 14 times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO)’s guideline.

According to the 6th Annual World Air Quality Report published by IQAir, a Swiss air quality monitoring organization, Bangladesh emerged as the most polluted country with PM2.5 of 79.9 micrograms/cubic meter. PM2.5 refers to small airborne particles that can damage lungs and present a “smoggy” atmosphere when suspended in large quantities in the atmosphere. India, per the report, recorded PM2.5 of 54.4 micrograms/cubic meter, more than 10 times higher than the WHO guideline of PM2.5 of 5 or less micrograms.

A year earlier, Bangladesh was ranked fifth, India eighth and Pakistan third.

“A clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right,” said Frank Hammes, IQAir Global CEO. “In many parts of the world the lack of air quality data delays decisive action and perpetuates unnecessary human suffering. Air quality data saves lives. Where air quality is reported, action is taken, and air quality improves,” he added.

“Because of the climate conditions and the geography [in South Asia], you get this streak of PM2.5 concentrations that just skyrocket because the pollution has nowhere to go,” Christi Chester Schroeder, air quality science manager at IQAir, told the Reuters news agency. “On top of that are factors such as agricultural practices, industry and population density,” she said. “Unfortunately, it really does look like it will get worse before it gets better,” she added.

According to the IQAir report, only seven countries met the WHO annual PM2.5 guideline—Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand. Meanwhile, it said, 124 of 134 countries monitored exceeded the guideline.

“IQAir’s annual report illustrates the international nature and inequitable consequences of the enduring air pollution crisis. Local, national, and international effort is urgently needed to monitor air quality in under-resourced places, manage the causes of transboundary haze, and cut our reliance on combustion as an energy source,” said Aidan Farrow, Senior Air Quality Scientist, Greenpeace International.

“In 2023, air pollution remained a global health catastrophe. IQAir’s global data set provides an important reminder of the resulting injustices and the need to implement the many solutions that exist to this problem,” he added.

The IQAir report was based on data from more than 30,000 monitoring stations across 7.812 locations in 134 countries and regions.

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