Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Top 10 most polluted cities- The other list

Every year the World Bank releases its list of top 20 polluted cities of the world. The list is based on air pollutants and the big news was that 16 of China's cities were on that top 20 list for 2006. This year we were introduced to a new list of polluted cities with more relevant criteria. Unfortunately the list does not look kindly on India.

The Blacksmith group compiled a list of the 35 most polluted cities in the world for 2006 from among 300 cities that had been presented to it over the past seven years for support in clean up by local communities, non-government organizations (NGOs) and a broad range of environmental authorities around the world.

India made a strong showing with 6 of its cities making the short list. The Indian contingent included Ankleshwar; an industrial township in Gujarat, Bhopal; site of the Union Carbide Industrial disaster in Madhya Pradesh, Kanpur, on the shores of Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, Picnic Gardens; to the east of Kolkata in West Bengal, Ranipet; about 100 miles away from Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Vapi; an industrial estate in Gujarat. In the group's top 10 list as voted by its technical advisory board, Ranipet was India's only entry. The list was compiled based on a scoring system that gave varying weights and importance to criteria such as; the size of the affected population, severity of the toxin or toxins involved, impact of children's health and development, evidence of a clear pathway of contamination and existing and reliable evidence of health impact. Considering the variability in individual scoring and the difficulty in assessing the parameters accurately, the list does not ascribe any hierarchy stating that "being on the list is bad enough".

One of Blacksmith's goals in compiling the list was to garner worldwide media attention so as to spread the word of urgency in containing pollution considering it has to compete for space in all forms of media with various other environmental issues. The strategy seemed to work and got extensive media coverage around the world.

I do not have any data but do hope the cities on the list took notice and have instituted measures to take the appropriate measures. The description and pictures of how the pollution has affected the area are heartbreaking and shocking. Its unfortunate that we had at least six cities that merit such notoriety.

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