Air pollution levels in most Indian cities are rising at an alarming rate due to increase in vehicular congestion.
As per new data of Indian cities presented to Parliament by the Central Pollution Control Board and National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Ludhiana recorded highest level of air pollution among cities in 2009, overtaking the previous year's topper Delhi.
"Ludhiana has got the top ranking because there air pollution there has risen at a faster rate than in Delhi," said a senior environment ministry official.
The average particulate matter (PM 10) recorded for Ludhiana was 254 ug/m3 as compared to 243 ug/m3 for Delhi.
Among major cities, Kolkata is ranked sixth on the list, Bangalore 11th and Mumbai 12th.
Anumita Roy Choudhury, Associate Director with Centre for Science and Environment said : "The problem with Indian cities has been a sudden increase in number of vehicles without adequate increase in road space."
As per the road transport ministry data, road space in India has increased at an annual rate of 2.5 % as compared to over 10 % increase in vehicular population.
The worrying factor has been trend faster rate of increase in air pollution in smaller towns.
"These smaller cities have witnessed huge increase in personal vehicles since 2005 leading to greater congestion," Choudhury said.
Among the 12 most polluted cities in India, at least seven are smaller towns such as Kanpur, Amritsar and Jamshedpur.
Another set of data released by the ministry shows that even nitrogen oxide emissions are on the rise. The probable cause is higher sale of diesel vehicles.
Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh, in his reply, said that the government has taken several measures to check air pollution but told HT that failure of many cities to provide an alternate and viable public transport system has also caused a huge jump in the numbers of on road vehicles.