Updated May 3, 2018

India now has the world's dirtiest air

People commute through smog in New Delhi. Photo: Ramesh Sharma/India Today Group via Getty Images

According to a recent WHO analysis, Indian cities are now the most polluted in the world, accounting for 14 of the 20 cities with the worst air pollution. This is not shocking news: Indian cities, including the capital, New Delhi, make international news for their choking smog every winter.

Why it matters: Air pollution is one of the world's leading causes of death. Fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) is linked with a wide range of health issues, especially heart and lung disease but also diabetes, hyperactivity and autism. Per Lancet, these health issues are on the rise in rapidly developing middle- and low-income countries, with the largest increases occurring in India and Bangladesh.

The Delhi government has put in place a number of short-term policy measures — including restricting driving to alternate days based on license plate numbers — to reduce traffic emissions when other factors such as low winds, garbage burning for heat and stubble burning on farms north of the city become a problem. Even though these measures reduce daily concentration, they have not had a lasting impact. And Delhi is just the tip of the iceberg: Smaller towns and cities such as Kanpur are even worse off.

What's next: Based on the available data, Indian scientists and policy advisors have made a number of recommendations, many of which have gone unheeded since the 1990s. If rich cities like Delhi can’t manage pollution, the prospect for poorer ones is dim. Perhaps Indian politicians need to take a page out of the Beijing playbook and learn how China's government has managed to dramatically improve air quality through a combination of tough industrial and traffic control measures.

Tanvi Nagpal is acting director of the International Development Program and practitioner in residence at Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Japan's economy minister outlined plans on Monday to end the nationwide state of emergency as the number of new novel coronavirus cases continues to decline to less than 50 a day, per Bloomberg. Japan has reported 16,550 cases and 820 deaths.

By the numbers: Over 5.4 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.1 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 13.7 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,800 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,401,701 — Total deaths: 345,060 — Total recoveries — 2,149,407Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 1,643,238 — Total deaths: 97,720 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,195Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump doubled down on his push to reopen schools, tweeting late Sunday: "Schools in our country should be opened ASAP."

Zoom in: Trump pushed back on NIAD Director Anthony Fauci cautioning against the move earlier this month, calling his concerns "not an acceptable answer."