Half of the most polluted cities in India are in Uttar Pradesh with Allahabad ranked as worst, the Central Pollution Control Board air quality data of the 46 million cities showed.
Delhi ranks fourth for the average annual particulate matter pollution in 2016, 19% deterioration since 2014. Other cities are Jaipur, Dhanbad, Ranchi and Amritsar.
The worrying trend emerging from the data was that air pollution was rising at a rapid pace in most of the big cites except Raipur, Kolkata and Indore, where it has gone down slightly because of proactive action by local bodies.
The annual average pollution was more than four times the permissible limit in 10 most polluted cities, meaning that on the worst days, especially in winter, it was up to 20 times the national safety parameter and 60 times of the World Health Organisation (WHO) norm.
The data tabled in Parliament on Tuesday had five UP cities — Allahabad, Varanasi, Lucknow, Ghaziabad and Agra — among the top worst air quality cities in the country.
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The only saving grace for the state is that the levels in Ghaziabad has improved slightly since 2014 even though it was 6th most polluted city. Regional officer of UP Pollution Control Board Mohd Sikander admitted that the particulate matter was high within the city limits. He blamed dust, vehicular exhaust, brick-kilns and garbage burning as main reasons.
“The main cause is increasing vehicle use in absence of adequate public transport system, construction activity, coal burning and high emission thermal plants,” said Aarti Khosla, India Programme Lead, Global Strategic Communications Council.
While this winter the focus on air pollution control had been on Delhi and its neighbourhood, most of the UP cities, including Allahabad, had witnessed heavy smog.
In fact, the pollution level was at par with Delhi on several days. In Varanasi, the air quality was not found to be good even on a single day after Diwali.
The Care 4 air campaigner Ekta Shekhar said the PM level increased by eight times because of burning of waste, unplanned demolition of old buildings and slow construction of roads. Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur also finds place in the top 10 with experts blaming it on rising vehicle population and congestion.