Port au Prince is not on anyone’s ‘dirty city’ list. But why has it been spared?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL February 20, 2014
A gutter in Port au Prince

A gutter in Port au Prince

Can Delhi really be the world’s most polluted city, as a recent study by Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy says? (Till now, we all thought Beijing, China had the dirty crown.)

What about Port au Prince? It’s hardly in the same big city league as the Indian capital, has barely a sixth of Delhi’s population (and its cars) and the merest fraction of its development.

I have no idea of the airborne pollutants per cubic meter in Port au Prince. These are nasties such as ammonia, carbon, nitrates and sulfate that can pass into the bloodstream and cause diseases such as emphysema and cancer. But it’s easy to get ‘dirty’ when you’re out and about the Haitian capital. Great clouds of dust and noxious exhaust fumes mark every journey, in stop-start traffic; waste and sewage sits unregarded in piles on the street; gutters (dry or otherwise) are clogged with plastic bags, used styrofoam boxes and suchlike and pigs root around everywhere.

And yet, perhaps for reasons to do with sympathy because of Port au Prince’s quake-induced suffering (or just rank disregard?), the Haitian capital doesn’t appear on ‘dirty city’ lists.

According to Quartz last year, the world’s most polluted city is Ahwaz, which is roughly the same size population-wise as Port au Prince, and is the capital of Iran’s main oil producing province. It also listed the following, in order (a list that I think should be appropriately updated):

  • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  • Sanandaj, Iran
  • Ludhiana, India
  • Quetta, Pakistan
  • Kermanshah, Iran
  • Peshawar, Pakistan
  • Gaborone, Botswana (with apologies to the loveable Mma Ramotswe of Alexander McCall-Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency)
  • Yasouj, Iran
  • Kanpur, India
    Jack Kerouac

    “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
    – Jack Kerouac