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The data has revealed that India has 14 out 15 most polluted cities in the world. The world's ten most polluted cities are Indian.

The study titled "18-year Ambient PM2.5 Exposure and Night Light Trends in India Cities" has been published in the Aerosol and Air Quality Research, an global peer reviewed journal. For PM10, Varanasi ranked the sixth most polluted in the world.

The new figures were released by the WHO along with the revelation that a staggering 9 out of 10 people around the world are still breathing polluted air, causing around 7 million deaths around the globe every year.

Although there are major gaps on air pollution data from regions including the Western Pacific and Africa - where information was available in only eight out of 47 countries on the continent - the World Health Organization chief noted that the global community was "starting to pay attention and take action" on air pollution, recognizing it as a threat to sustainable development.

A new World Health Organization report said on Wednesday that 14 Indian cities were on its 2016 list of 15 with the highest levels of PM2.5 or particulate matter (PM) with a diametre of less than 2.5 micrometres.

All countries in the region are making efforts to expand availability of clean fuels and technologies, however, over 60 per cent population do not have clean fuel. "The government has also taken several bold initiatives, including leap-frogging from BS-IV to BS-VI", it said.

"Air pollution needs to be brought under control with urgent and effective action".

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PM2.5 are tiny but deadly air particles, which can increase the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

"Cleaning up the air we breathe will help prevent NCDs, particularly among women and vulnerable groups such as children, those already ill and the elderly", Singh said.

"We know there is a strong link between poor air quality and heart health with nearly six in ten global deaths (58%) related to outdoor air pollution caused by a heart attack or stroke".

"It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people - a lot of them women and children - are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes". But other pollution sources, including construction dust and the burning of crop stubble in the winter, continue unchecked.

Inside people's houses, the main source of air pollution stems from lack of access to clean cooking fuels.

"With similar intervention in other polluted cities and active participation of ULBs (urban local bodies) and state governments, air quality is expected to improve further", the ministry said.