Pollution in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Patna, Agra and Kanpur exceed the toxic levels in Beijing
GN Bureau | May 12, 2016
The South Asian region has shown an increase of five percent in air pollution level in more than two-thirds of its cities.
Delhi has some reason to cheer after the release of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report on the urban air quality as its position in the pollution database has moved down from being the world’s most polluted city to 11th position.
After being ranked the worst city in 2014 for having high levels of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 i.e.153 micro grams per cubic metre, the level in Delhi has plummeted to 122 in the recent report.
But, what is worse is that cities like Gwalior, Allahabad, Patna and Raipur are now world’s 10 most polluted cities. Gwalior holds second position followed by Allahabad on the third place whereas Patna is on sixth and Raipur on seventh position.
The official data based on the years of measurements from 2010 to 2015 confirms that exposure to toxic particulate pollution PM 2.5 and PM 10 is alarmingly high in most Indian cities.
Even the National Air Quality Index (NAQI) data of 2015 shows that pollution level in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Patna, Agra and Kanpur, exceed the toxic levels in Beijing and other Chinese cities.
Delhi’s level over the eight months (April to November as per NAQI) of data were 12 times as high as the WHO annual guideline and three times as high as the national standard. Lucknow, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Varanasi had average levels at least 10 times as high as the WHO annual guideline.
While Delhi garners the most attention, five other cities registered even higher levels in November, and all northern cities had average levels that would trigger a “red alert” in Beijing if they persisted for only four days. It included cities like Patna, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Muzaffarpur and Faridabad.
“Pollution does not recognise political boundaries, with polluted air travelling across long distances,” says Sunil Dahiya, campaigner, Greenpeace India. “Air pollution is a national crisis, and demands a concerted national action plan in response.”
The continuing rise of fossil fuel consumption in India, along with several other factors, has contributed to an increase in air pollution levels. The significant increase in secondary particles such as SO2 and NOx in particular contributing to the overall pollution, Dahiya says, can be attributed to emissions from thermal power plants.
“We are glad to see that the government has taken some steps to reduce air pollution: such as the new emission standards prescribed for thermal power plants and introducing Bharat VI standards for vehicles. The critical thing now is to ensure that these are implemented as soon as possible to reduce the public health crisis due to air pollution coming from burning fossil fuels,” he says.
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