India may be lagging behind China in development but when it comes to pollution, the country has definitely outclassed its neighbor.
Of the world's top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India, says World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report on Friday. Only three cities in China have been listed in the category. Air pollution slashes life expectancy of the 660 million Indians by 3.2 years. The corresponding dip is marginally lower at three years in China.
Most sadly, the holy rivers of India, Ganga and Yamuna are ranked among the world's 10 most polluted rivers.
Vapi in Gujarat and Sukinda in Odisha have been included in the 10 most environmentally-degraded zones in the world. China has no entries on the list.
According to experts, one important difference between the two emerging economies lies in China's ability to manage the impact of fast economic growth on its environment much better than India.
The effect of China's accomplishment is most visible in its air and water, both of which have a direct bearing on public health.
Both India and China were saddled with almost identical environmental concerns a decade ago. However, China cleaned many of its polluted rivers and managed to control the spiraling urban air pollution with strict laws.
"Beijing's air pollution has dipped 40% since 2000 as we have taken steps to phase out polluting vehicles and put checks on building heating systems," said Beijing municipal officer Li Kunsheng at an event in Delhi earlier this year.
In contrast, Delhi's air pollution has steadily climbed by 20% in the same period. But, India's successive governments were reluctant to act. The story is the same in cities across the country.
The report has found, Coimbatore - city in southern India - the only city found to be fit for breathing.
The impact of rising air pollution is clearly visible on an average Indian's life, as proved by a Lancet study in 2012 that ranked air pollution as the sixth biggest killer with an annual estimated toll of 66 million.