Currently, agricultural burning adds to the air pollution issues across Pakistan and India, especially in the north. The region has 16 among the 20 most polluted cities in the global air pollution database of the World Health Organization (WHO). However, are they the most polluted places in the world ever recorded? Although lack of measurements makes historic comparisons difficult, we have some clues.
More than 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin was one of the first scientists who studied electricity in the atmosphere. Air pollution also changes the electrical properties of our air, although lightning is the most obvious manifestation.
In 1790, electrical measurements near Hyde Park suggested the particle pollution of the 18th-century London was about half the annual average in the most polluted cities in India in the present.
Air pollution is a huge problem in India, killing more than 1 million in the country every year, according to researches. According to the IQAir report, on average, its cities exceed WHO guidelines for the amount of particulate pollution (PM2.5) in the atmosphere by up to 500 precent.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, around 135,000 deaths are attributed to air pollution every year, making it the top cause of sickness and death smog. The country spends about 5.88% of GDP or $47.8 billion on solving air pollution issues. During some past decades, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan have successfully enforced policies to lessen air pollution and accentuate that today’s air pollution need not be tomorrow’s fate.
Things had deteriorated by 1900. Measurements of atmospheric electricity at Kew show that air pollution in London was similar to the worst Indian cities nowadays.
However, the UK was home to 44 million people in the 1920s and bout 400 million people are exposed to the poor air in the Ganges River basin on north India, making it a far larger air pollution crisis.