Air pollution is a serious threat to the planet. The faster an economy grows, the more it pollutes the atmosphere. It's not just the cars and factories, the burning of solid fuels in developing countries also contributes to the problem. In fact, the way things are headed, everybody in big cities will be forced to wear gas masks in the near future.

According to a recent survey by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15 Indian cities feature in the top 30 most polluted cities in the world. In other words, half of the most polluted places on the planet are in India. This is a major cause for concern for everyone.

Here are the 12 most polluted places in India (in no particular order):

1. New Delhi

It's the largest city in India in terms of land area and population, and also the second most populated city in the world. Traffic and congestion are the biggest contributors of pollution here.

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2. Ludhiana

A high number of industries and the never-ending traffic in this Punjabi city are the major reasons for the pollution. The alarming rise in the number of asthma patients in Ludhiana is proof enough that pollution is on the rise.

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3. Kanpur

This town in Uttar Pradesh has factories producing textile, fertilizer, chemicals, two wheelers, soaps, and pan masala. Little wonder then that Kanpur is on this list!

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4. Patna

The capital of Bihar has several mills and factories that manufacture agricultural goods. These are believed to be the main reasons for the pollution here.

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5. Ahmedabad

It's the 5th largest city in India and also the 3rd fastest growing city in the world. But pollution here seems to be increasing at the same rate at which the city is expanding.

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6. Amritsar

The Golden Temple sees thousands of pilgrims and tourists on a daily basis. The resulting traffic and congestion in the city adds to the pollution.

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7. Allahabad

The second oldest city in India is home to Prayaga, the oldest shrine in Hinduism. This city is also where the Ganga and Yamuna meet. Just like Amritsar, Allahabad also sees a lot of pilgrims.

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8. Agra

Home of the Taj Mahal, the main reason for the pollution here is the dust that flies in when the Yamuna runs dry. Large scale mining, industries and mining also add to the pollution.

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9. Khanna

Khanna is located on the National Highway between Ludhiana and Ambala. There are several industries - especially of steel and other metal works - and this is the major reason for pollution.

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10. Jodhpur

The second largest city in Rajasthan is a major tourist destination and home to a lot of handicraft and textile industries. Littering by tourists is the main reason for pollution in Jodhpur.

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11. Dehradun

Located in the Himalayas, Dehradun is one of the oldest Indian cities. Many government departments like the Indian Institute of Petroleum are located here and it is believed that they are contributing to the pollution.

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12. Gwalior

Gwalior is surrounded by 3 industrial areas: Sitholi, Banmore and Malanpur. The main industries in the city include tourism, dairy, chemical, manufacturing, and textiles, and this is why pollution in the city is on the rise.

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Something needs to be done about the alarming rate at which pollution is on the rise in Indian cities. If we don't do something soon enough, it will be too late and we too will have to head to Mars just like Mangalyaan!