Doha 12th most polluted city in the world; possible causes are higher air traffic and growing population
Doha is one of the world’s most polluted cities, the recent ‘2014 Ambient Air Pollution database Update’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms. The report places Doha at No. 12 among the top 20 cities, led by Delhi, India, based on the annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10).
The PM2.5 levels (particles smaller than 2.5 microns) of the cities of Doha and Al Wakrah are measured at 93 and 85, respectively whereas PM10 (particles smaller than 10 microns) measures at 168 and 152 for Doha and Al Wakrah, respectively. Doha’s PM10 measure was only slightly lower than Abu Dhabi’s 170 microns. According to a report by the Qatar Statistics Authority last year, particulate matter constituted the highest source of air pollution in Qatar.
Particulate matter consists of particles suspended in the air, including soot, dust, smoke and liquid droplets, for a long time and cause great health risks. Both particles smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns in diameter (PM10 and PM2.5) pose risks to human health as they can be inhaled and accumulated in the respiratory system; PM2.5 pose the greatest risks though due to their fine size. Industrial processes, other combustion activities as well as road and construction work cause these particles to accumulate in the air.
The decline in air quality around Qatar can be attributed to a number of factors, with the increase in population being one of the primary ones. This increase in population has also caused congestion due to excessive construction of residential areas. An instance of air pollution includes a strong gas-like odour spreading across different parts of Qatar in March this year. A number of residents reported this odour over social media, one of the primary reasons for which was the increase in the concentration of some air pollutants in the air for a brief period.
There has also been a 12.45% increase in the number of air and passenger traffic moving through Doha International Airport since 2013, which is a contributing factor to the pollution levels. The new Hamad International Airport, which can accommodate a larger number of flights and passengers, is also much larger in size and might increased air traffic in the future.
However, air pollution is not the only type of pollution that is plaguing Qatar. Sound pollution in some parts of Doha as well as excessive light displays in many areas, particularly West Bay, is causing disruptions to the country’s natural environment.