Airpocalypse-II , a Greenpeace India report released on Monday, analyses PM10 annual average recorded for 280 cities which have 630 million, or 53% citizens of the country’s total population. A massive part of the population, 580 million (47%) of the population are living in areas where no air quality data is available.
Out of 630 million, close to 550 million people live in areas exceeding national standards for PM10, including 180 million living in areas where air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated limit of 60g/m3which has been set by Central Pollution Control Board.
The report highlights that as many as 47 million children under the age of five years are residing in areas where PM10 levels exceeded CPCB annual limits, including 17 million children under the age of five who are in the areas where pollution levels are more than twice the limits. Children are worst affected in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Delhi respectively. Together, these states are home to 12.9 million children who are below or up to five years of age, trapped in bad air exceeding by more than twice the annual standard.
Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “Only 16% of the population inhabiting the districts have real-time air quality data is available portrays how in-humanly we are responding to the national health crises in front of us. Even the manual data collected for 300 cities/towns across the country is not shared in a timely manner and in a format which can be accessed and understood easily by the general public.”
Ranking of cities based on an annual average of PM10 levels reveals Delhi as the worst polluted city with 290 μg/m3 followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Patna with the annual average ranging from 272 μg/m3, 262 μg/m3 & 261 μg/m3 respectively. Surprisingly, Dehradun in Uttrakhand, once thought to be a salubrious preserve of retiring elite, also made it to the top 10 list of worst polluted cities with 238 μg/m3 annual average of PM10. The annual average of PM10 levels for the top 20 most polluted cities are between 290 μg/m3 and 195 μg/m3,for the year 2016.
Dahiya further added, “Delhi remained the worst impacted city with annual PM10 levels exceeding approximately 5 times the national ambient air quality standards. The fact that less than 20% Indian cities are complying with the national, or CPCB, standards sadly points to the lack of workable, robust and timely action plans so far.”
The report adds that most polluted cities are spread across the Indo-Gangetic basin with southern cities being slightly better off than their northern counterparts. However, cities in the south also need a focused and time-bound action plan to bring air quality to achieve the WHO standards, and thereby showing a pathway for other cities across India.
The National Clean Air Programme recently announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change firstly needs to be comprehensive, systematic, time-bound bound plans with fixed accountabilities and secondly, it needs to be made public soon for it to come into action. This will also help in having the general public’s active participation, as well as all layers of the government to take the idea to the ground level, along with tackling myriad sources of pollution daunting the quality of air through vast parts of the country.
Footnote: The report analysed data which was obtained from the National Air Monitoring Programme, RTI responses from State Pollution Control Boards and annual reports, along with websites of various State Pollution Control Boards.