New statistics released by the World Health Organisation, WHO, last Thursday has said that of the 50 urban areas with the worst ambient air pollution, four are in Nigeria.
Onitsha has the undignified honour of being labeled the world’s most polluted city for air quality, when measuring small particulate matter concentration (PM10).
The other three cities named and shamed in the WHO report for high PM10 levels are Kaduna, which came fifth, followed by the cities of Aba — in sixth place — and Umuahia, in 16th position.
However, of the 50 urban areas with the worst ambient air pollution, 22 are in India, according to the WHO’s report.
India’s capital, New Delhi, ranked as the most polluted mega-city in the world, and the 14th most polluted of all 3,000 cities and towns included in the ranking.
The country is also home to the second most polluted city in the world: Gwalior, in central India. It is topped only by Zabol, in Iran, which often suffers blinding dust storm.
The cause of Nigeria’s pollution problem is a complex story.
“The contributing factors to pollution are a reliance on using solid fuels for cooking, burning waste and traffic pollution from very old cars,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, told CNN.
At home, due to unreliable electricity supplies, many Nigerians rely on generators, which spew out noxious fumes often in unventilated areas.
On the street, car emissions go unregulated.
Neira adds: “In Africa, unfortunately, the levels of pollution are increasing because of rapid economic development and industry without the right technology.”