According to a report, Airpocalypse, released by Greenpeace India, people living in eight of every 10 Indian cities breathe toxic dust particles, PM 10, at levels exceeding national safety limits.
The report mainly brings together data on the quality of air and presence of particulate matter in the atmosphere in over 280 cities across the country. In many of the cities, the air quality has reportedly gone down from bad to worse with the National Capital Territory of Delhi recording the worst air quality in the country.
The data gathered on the PM or particulate matter reveals that:
Around 228 cities, which is more than 80% of the cities/town where Air Quality Monitoring data was available, have not been complying with the annual permissible concentration of 60µg/m⊃3; that is prescribed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
None of the cities have been found to adhere to the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) at 2 µg/m⊃3;.
All the cities are recording particulate matter beyond the permissible limit set on an international level to stay within the safe limits for the sake of human health as well as the environment.
The report mainly aims to bring to notice that air pollution is a growing national problem and it needs to be addressed with equal and utmost seriousness at a countrywide level and not only in Delhi or the National Capital Region as mostly has so far been the case.
It also tried to identify major sources of pollution in different parts of the country based on past research and available data.
Report: Key Highlights
• Out of the 630 million Indians covered by the data, 550 million live in areas exceeding national standard for particulate matter and about 180 million live in areas where the air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated standards.
• According to the data, 47 million children under the age of 5 years live in the areas that exceed the national standard, while around 17 million live in areas where the air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated standards.
• Besides this, 580 million Indians live in districts with no air quality data available, including 59 million children under the age of 5 years.
• The report also reveals that bad air is not confined to big cities like Delhi-NCR alone and it is not seasonal.
• It states that toxic air is engulfing both urban and rural spaces equally.
The report further states, that in the absence of any measurable target-driven approach on the part of state and central government agencies, it is difficult to state whether the improvement in air quality in some cities is due to weather or behavioural changes in local sources of pollution or due to action initiated under the clean air policy that the government is supposed to enforce.
Air pollution has been a serious cause of concern for many big cities in India, especially during winter.
However, it is slowly becoming a cause of concern for smaller cities and villages as well that form of the periphery of many big cities.
In 2015, air pollution (PM2.5) levels in India increased at such a rapid pace that they overtook those in China.
Most Polluted Cities
Delhi still remains the top-most polluted city followed by towns such as Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Dehradun, Varanasi and Patna.
Pollution levels in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have also registered an increase.
• The critically polluted cities do not just require long-term action plans but also are in need for a strict emergency response in an immediate, short-term and time-bound manner to bring pollution levels down drastically and ward off an impending health and economic emergency.
• The government has notified a graded response action plan (GRAP) for Delhi-NCR region. However, its implementation remains to be poor.
• The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has sent notices to many states to come up with action plans to bring down pollution levels.
• Unlike in the North, many cities in the south do not require emergency response plans but most of them do need a long-term action plan to bring down pollution levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) limits and meet WHO standards for air quality.
To work towards a better air quality in the country, the Union Government has formulated a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The programme aims to ensure source-wise solutions in a time-bound manner for the entire country.
While centralised actions and policies by the Government at national and regional levels are extremely important, public participation is equally significant in making a difference in the air quality.