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Top 10 Most Polluted Cities in the World (2024)

Air pollution poses the greatest environmental threat to global public health. Improving air quality is crucial for our…
Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)

Air pollution poses the greatest environmental threat to global public health. Improving air quality is crucial for our well-being, progress, and the environment. Every breath we take exposes us to tiny particles that can harm our lungs, hearts, and brains, leading to various health problems. Cities labeled “most polluted” often suffer from high population density, industrial activities, and traffic congestion. Geographic factors can also trap pollutants in these areas. Urban air pollution affects developed and developing nations with serious consequences worldwide.

RankCityCountryAQIPM2.5 Conc.
1DhakaBangladesh38979.9 µg/m3
2LahorePakistan33173.7 µg/m3
3BegusaraiIndia35154.4 µg/m3
4KhujandTajikistan27349.0 µg/m3
5OuagadougouBurkina Faso26846.6 µg/m3
6ErbilIraq22443.8 µg/m3
7DubaiUAE21343.0 µg/m3
8KathmanduNepal21242.0 µg/m3
9Cairo CityEgypt21142.4 µg/m3
10KinshasaD. R. Congo20540.8 µg/m3

The air we breathe is vital for life, but daily air quality may be far from clean for residents in certain cities. Air pollution has emerged as a major global issue in recent decades, posing significant health and environmental problems. Here’s a glimpse into the top 10 most polluted cities worldwide, highlighting the urgent need for action and improvement.

1) Dhaka, Bangladesh

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • The research team at Stamford University Bangladesh’s Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) has studied air and noise pollution levels during English New Year celebrations for the past seven years.
  • Dhaka’s rapid urban growth and increasing population have stressed its infrastructure. In addition to heavy traffic, brick kilns surrounding the city emit large quantities of particles. Many residents wear masks, but addressing this issue requires more effective solutions.
  • In the early hours of 2024, air pollution rose by approximately 64 micrograms to a peak of 249 micrograms per cubic meter, which is classified as very unhealthy on the air quality index.

2) Lahore, Pakistan

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • Lahore, Pakistan’s vibrant and historically rich city, ranks second in air pollution. Each winter, temperature inversion combines with crop burning, vehicle emissions, and industrial pollution in Punjab Province, creating harmful smog conditions.
  • In Punjab Province, measures like banning crop burning, promoting reforestation, and initiating public transportation projects are in place. Despite these efforts, residents often face respiratory problems during winter, underscoring the need for effective legislation.
  • Every city in Pakistan listed in the 2023 report recorded concentrations of PM2.5 above 30 μg/m3, which is six times higher than the WHO’s recommended annual guideline.

3) Begusarai, India

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • A recent global city air quality report has identified Begusarai in Bihar as the most polluted city in India and the world.

Why Begusarai?

  • Begusarai, situated in eastern Bihar, lacks notable industrial activity or clear local sources of pollution, like other towns in Bihar, which are on the most polluted list. However, it stands out as the most polluted due to the widespread burning of solid fuels. According to a study by a professor from IIT Kanpur’s Departments of Civil Engineering and Sustainable Energy, burning solid waste could also significantly contribute to this pollution.
  • Dr. Tripathi, a leading expert on air pollution in India, highlighted that although initiatives like Ujjwala have been effective in several regions, many rural households still rely on solid fuels for cooking.

4) Khujand, Tajikistan

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • Khujand, also known as Khojand, is Tajikistan’s second-largest city in the northern part of the country within the Fergana Valley. This historic city, which dates back to the seventh century, once played a pivotal role as a trading center along the Silk Road. However, Khujand faces an environmental challenge with a PM2.5 concentration of 64 (µg/m³).
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests a safe limit for PM2.5, which is 15 micrograms per cubic meter over 24 hours of fine particulate matter in the air. Currently, the concentration in our city is 2.56 times higher than this recommended threshold. This increase is likely due to emissions from industries such as cement, power plants, and vehicle exhaust, which have intensified as the city has expanded.

5) Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • According to the World Health Organization, air quality in Burkina Faso is hazardous. Recent data shows that the country’s average annual PM2.5 concentration is 46 micrograms per cubic meter, far above the recommended maximum of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Monitoring of air quality focuses on the most harmful pollutants to public health.

6) Erbil, Iraq

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • Declining air quality worldwide poses a serious threat to all living beings. Like many places, Erbil has suffered environmental damage due to urban growth, increased vehicles, industrial growth, and inefficient fuel use. Despite its historical and modern charm, Erbil still struggles with air quality issues.

7) Dubai, UAE

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • In 2023, Iraq (43.8 μg/m3) and the United Arab Emirates (43.0 μg/m3) were among the world’s ten most polluted countries. Five of the region’s most polluted cities, including Baghdad, Kuwait City, Manama, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, are capital cities. However, the average PM2.5 levels in West Asia’s nine most polluted cities have decreased yearly.

8) Kathmandu, Nepal

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • Kathmandu ranks among the world’s top 10 most polluted cities, with PM2.5 levels reaching 154 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • Air quality in the Kathmandu Valley has worsened to dangerous levels, causing significant public health concerns. While declines in air quality are typical during the winter and dry seasons, experts are alarmed by a sudden rise in pollution levels. The situation is expected to deteriorate further due to crop burning in the Tarai region and the influx of polluted air from neighboring India.

9) Cairo City, Egypt

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • While contributing significantly to Egypt’s GDP, pollution from traffic jams, land clearing by burning, industrial electricity, and open waste burning endanger its future economic growth.
  • The World Bank estimates that air pollution costs the region about 2% of its GDP annually.
  • In Cairo, air pollution leads to approximately 18,000 premature deaths annually, accounting for 16% of the total. A 2023 report from the Clean Air Fund warns that without significant urban development efforts, air pollution could cost the economies of six rapidly growing cities—Accra, Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi, and Yaounde—a total of $137.8 billion by 2040. Despite a 10.5% decrease in 2023, PM2.5 levels in Cairo remain more than eight times higher than the WHO annual guideline, averaging 42.4 μg/m3 per year.
  • In Accra, Ghana, PM2.5 levels increased by 10.3%, reaching an average annual concentration of 33.2 μg/m3.

10) Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Top 10 Most Polluted Cities In The World (2024)
  • In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cities like Kinshasa, home to over 11 million people, often experience outdoor PM2.5 levels above WHO guidelines. Additionally, more than 90% of the population uses wood for cooking, exposing them to harmful indoor air pollution. This combined air pollution is estimated to cause over 32,000 deaths annually.


In 2024, the world’s top 10 most polluted cities face severe air quality challenges, with high levels of pollutants like PM2.5 posing significant health risks to residents. These cities urgently need effective measures to reduce pollution and safeguard public health.


Q1: What makes a city one of the most polluted in the world?

Ans: Cities with high pollution levels typically have elevated concentrations of pollutants like PM2.5, caused by industrial emissions, vehicular traffic, and reliance on solid fuels for cooking.

Q2: Which cities are currently ranked as the most polluted in 2024?

Ans: As of 2024, cities like Delhi, Beijing, Lahore, Dhaka, and others consistently rank among the most polluted globally due to their high air pollution levels.

Q3: What health risks are associated with living in the most polluted cities?

Ans: Residents of highly polluted cities face increased risks of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular issues, and other health problems due to long-term exposure to pollutants.

Q4: What measures are being taken to reduce pollution in these cities?

Ans: Efforts to improve air quality include stricter emission controls, promoting renewable energy sources, enhancing public transportation, and encouraging cleaner industrial practices.

Q5: How can individuals protect themselves from pollution in these cities?

Ans: Individuals can reduce exposure by using air purifiers indoors, wearing masks when outdoor pollution is high, avoiding outdoor exercise during peak pollution hours, and supporting local clean air initiatives.

Q6: What is the economic impact of pollution on these cities?

Ans: Pollution imposes significant economic costs through healthcare expenses, lost productivity, and damage to ecosystems, impacting public finances and quality of life.

Q7: Are there global initiatives addressing air quality issues in these cities?

Ans: International organizations and initiatives like the Clean Air Fund and WHO collaborate with governments and local authorities to implement policies and technologies to improve air quality.

Q8: How can cities improve their air quality rankings in the future?

Ans: Cities can enhance air quality by investing in sustainable infrastructure, promoting green technologies, implementing stricter emissions regulations, and raising awareness about the importance of clean air.

Q9: What role does urban planning play in reducing pollution in cities?

Ans: Effective urban planning that prioritizes green spaces, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and efficient public transportation can help reduce reliance on vehicles and lower emissions, improving overall air quality.

Q10: How does climate change contribute to pollution in these cities?

Ans: Climate change exacerbates pollution by influencing weather patterns, which can trap pollutants in urban areas and worsen air quality. Cities increasingly focus on climate resilience and adaptation strategies to mitigate these effects.

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