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New Delhi, 12 May 16. Delhi is not the most polluted city in the world any more, according to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) urban air quality database released on Thursday.

In fact, it now ranks 11th among 3,000 cities in 103 countries in terms of PM 2.5 (fine, particulate pollution) and 25th in terms of PM 10 (coarse pollution particles) levels. This is though a considerable improvement since 2014 when Delhi was ranked the most polluted city in terms of PM 2.5 levels, WHO had monitored only 1600 cities last time. This time 1400 more cities have been included in the database.

Zabol in Iran is the most polluted city in the world according to the database. Gwalior and Allahabad are a close second and third in terms of PM 2.5, which is associated with more serious health impacts than PM 10. Patna and Raipur rank 6th and 7th. Totally, four Indian cities are among the world's ten most polluted cities, 10 out top 20 are also in India. In WHO's 2014 report, 13 out of 20 most polluted cities were in India.

Delhi's annual PM 2.5 mean for 2013 (second half) is 122 micrograms per cubic metres according to WHO's latest report compared to 153 micrograms per cubic metres as per WHO's previous report. Delhi's annual mean is about three times the Indian safe standard and 12 times the WHO standard of 10 micrograms per cubic metres. Chinese cities Xintai and Baoding are at ninth and 10th in the ranking, Beijing ranks far below at 56th. Beijing was at 75th last time. Sinclair in US is the least polluted city with an annual mean of only 2 micrograms per cubic metres.

WHO used data from various government and research organisations for the database, it's based on ground measurements of annual mean concentrations of particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5) and "aims at representing an average for the city or town as a whole, rather than for individual stations. Years of measurements range from 2010 to 2015, unless the latest available data was older," the report said.

Experts said Delhi's efforts to control air pollution may have reflected in the improvement in ranking. Some however also raised an interesting point - WHO has been mainly focusing on particulate matter (PM) but not so much on oxides of nitrogen (NOx) which is a problem in many parts of the West. "To get a more accurate and balanced picture of air quality globally, WHO should have taken NOx in to account too. NOx levels are in high in many parts of Europe too," said an expert.

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