Compiled and translated by Shin-wei Chang

The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 80% of urban residents are affected by air pollution. Six out of the seven cities with the worst air quality are in Asia.

On May 12, WHO released a report on urban air quality of nearly 3,000 towns and cities across more than one hundred countries. The results show that more than 80% of the urban inhabitants in the world are exposed to air that exceeds WHO’s safety standards.

WHO says people living in low-income cities are influenced the most. Up to 98% of low and middle income cities are exposed to air that does not meet the WHO standard and 56% of high-income cities don’t. WHO says, air quality has been deteriorating in low-income cities.

In addition, amid the mega-cities – cities that have more than 1.4 million inhabitants – six out of the seven cities with the worst air quality are in Asia. The seven cities are Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai in India, Cairo in Egypt, Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Beijing and Shanghai in China.

WHO says that the air quality has improved in certain cities, however, average air quality has decreased 8% globally. As awareness of air pollution rises, governments are more closely monitoring air quality, doubling the database for air quality over the past two years. Some countries are also taking actions to improve their air quality.

In May, to reduce air pollution, India brought in new restrictions on cars in New Delhi, except for those fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG), which drew a huge backlash from taxi drivers. As for China, a new law on air pollution took effect on the first day of 2016, setting clear goals to reduce PM2.5.

Air pollution in China

Greenpeace last month released a report on air pollution, putting the focus on China. It examined the PM2.5 index in 362 cities in China. It turned out that the five Chinese cities with the worst air quality are all located in Xinjiang in western China.

In addition, Greenpeace says air quality has improved in cities of east China, including Beijing, Shanghai and so on. However, the air quality in central and western China has degraded, where the PM2.5 index has raised 20.6% in average.

With the newly amended law on reducing air pollution, industries that are prone to pollute the air are strictly regulated, especially in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, leading them to head west. According to Greenpeace, 75% of the new coal-fired power plants that have been approved for construction in 2015 are set to be located in central and western China.

China is now tracking the source of pollution, tightening restrictions on polluters and raising the fine for companies and vehicles that cause pollution. However, the smog problem is still so serious that the Chinese have been willing to purchase bottled fresh air exported from Australia.

Edited by Olivia Yang

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