India’s high economic growth has given its cities a major health concern --- rising air pollution. It is no more a concern for big cities alone. Smaller towns are getting affected by the malaise at a much faster pace, says latest report of Central Pollution Control Board.
A new pollution regulator’s data for 2010 shows that smaller cities such as Solapur in Maharashtra, Rajkot in Gujarat, Yamunanagar and Faridabad in Haryana, Ghaziabad and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Paonta Sahib in Himachal, Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh and Nagaon in Assam have followed the footprints of bigger cities when it comes to air pollution.
No more Delhi is ranked most polluted city in any of the three parameters of pollutants --- sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM) --- measured. Delhi within two years has been replaced by Gwalior in case of PM and Howrah for NO2. In 2008, Chandni Chowk in Delhi was top ranked for them.
The Capital losing its crown was not because of its air getting cleaner. The rise of particulate matter pollution in smaller cities was faster than Delhi.
Only two cities --- Malapuram in Kerala and Madurai in Tamil Nadu --- of the 190 cities monitored for air pollution across India could claim to have clean air in 2010, the report said. All other cities have either high or critical level of one of these pollutants, mostly PM. In fact, 99 % of 400 locations under scanner in 2010 reported high or critical levels of PM. In 2008, the percentage was around 70%.
Anumita Roy Chaudhary of Centre for Science and Environment pointed out that in majority of the cities air pollution had increased at a rapid pace. “The cities earlier with low level now have moderate levels and those with moderate have high or critical levels of particulate matter,” she told HT.
The trends in India’s air pollution has been reported in studies with recent Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) report stating that air pollution was the fifth biggest reason for deaths in India.
Aaron Cohen, who headed the GBD expert group on air pollution, described the situation in India as “grave” and said that that air pollution causes about 20 % of lung cancer and six percent of high blood pressure deaths in India.
The CPCB report shows Delhi’s satellite towns --- Ghaziabad, Noida and Faridabad --- was following the Capital’s footsteps with particulate matter pollution sky-rocketing in the last four years. In fact, Ghaziabad has more particulate pollution than Delhi, the feat it achieved between 2008 and 2010. Noida and Faridabad are behind Delhi but are fast catching up.
Chaudhary said most Indian cities have failed to invest in its infrastructure and public transport leading to vehicular congestion causing higher air pollution, a view concurred in the CPCB report.
Monitoring of pollutants at 450 locations in 190 cities by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicate at the deteriorating quality of air pollution. Not even a single city has low levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter (PM) --- the three pollutants measured. High air pollution can cause breathing problems leading to cardiac attacks and even gene mutation in children.
More than half of the cities have critical levels of PM and another 49 % between moderate to high. Nitrogen oxide --- derivative of vehicle and industrial emissions --- is rising with half of the cities recording critical levels, from about 20 % a decade ago.
Here is how major states and cities fare on national pollution chart
Highest concentration states --- Delhi, Jharkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Haryana.
Top five polluted locations --- Dindayal Nagar (Gwalior), Town Hall (Delhi), Sarora (Raipur), Janakpuri (Delhi) and West Singhbhum, Jharkhand.
Top five polluted cities --- Gwalior, West Singhbhum, Ghaziabad, Raipur and Delhi.
Critical level in around 90% of metro cities
Trend --- The latter half of 2001 to 2010 saw a spurt in PM pollution rising to critical and high levels. Rising PM across cities has resulted in Delhi losing its top position in 2008. Among metros, Delhi still has highest PM levels.
Reason: Rising vehicles and industries without adequate pollution abatement programme. National Standard: 60 micro grams in cubic meter of air (ug/m3)
Highest concentration states --- West Bengal and Delhi, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar and Gujarat.
Top five locations --- Howrah Municipality School (Howrah), Khardah Municipality (Barrackpore), Howrah MC building, Town Hall, Chandhi Chowk (Delhi) and DumDum (Howrah)
Top five cities --- Howrah, Barrackpore, Badlapur (Maharashtra), Ulhasnagar (Maharashtra) and Durgapur (West Bengal).
Trend: The nitrogen oxide (NOX) levels in most cities rising but slower than PM. It is at pre-CNG levels in Delhi and seen steady rise in high vehicle concentration cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Lucknow, Ludhiana and Chandigarh. Even in upcoming cities NOX is rising above national standard.
Reason: Flux of diesel vehicles and use in agriculture because of fuel price advantage over petrol and electricity.
National standard: 40 ug/m3
Highest concentration states --- Jharkhand and Maharashtra
Top five polluted locations --- Bhosari (Pune), Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Bistupur (Jamshedpur), Golmuri (Jamshedpur) and Saraikela Kharsawan (Jharkhand)
Top five polluted cities --- Jamshedpur, Saraikela Kharsawan, Badlapur (Maharashtra), Marmagao (Goa) and Ulhasnagar (Maharashtra)
Trend: In the last decade the levels of SO2 has moderated or reduced at most places. In most cities including metros it is at low and moderate level. Around 50% cities have levels slightly higher than the national standard.
Reason: Low sulpur diesel and government effort to reduce in other fuels biggest reason for the low level.
National Standard: 50 ug/m3
Emerging Pollutants: Limited study on PM 2.5 and ammonia shows its high concentration in most places. However, Ozone was observed to be within limits in Delhi.