Varanasi and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh had zero good air quality days last year, said a report released on Monday that uses the government’s air quality data to conclude B-towns have the most toxic air in India.
Varanasi and Allahabad did not record a single day of “good” air quality day, said the report, which based its findings on the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) 2015 dataset.
Out of the 227 days of recorded data on air pollution, Varanasi had ‘zero’ good air quality days last year. And out of 263 days, Allahabad had zero good air quality days.
“Good” air is an Air Quality Index score below 50, above 100 is “moderate”, and over 150 indicates “severe” air pollution.
The levels recorded in Varanasi regularly cross 150, with the levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM) smaller than 2.5µm — the most harmful because they go deep into the airways and lungs — routinely double the safe limit in October and November
SPM less than 10µm were three times the safe limit in 2016 and had increased by more than one-third since 2010, said the report
Among six cities in Uttar Pradesh highlighted in the report, only Kanpur and Agra had more than 12 “good” air quality days each year.
The leading causes of pollution are the same across north India: agricultural fires, a mix of dust kicked up by traffic and construction sites, vehicular and industrial emissions, coal-fire power stations, brick kilns, smoke from private diesel generators and use of wood and coal fires for cooking.
The report, launched by Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), IndiaSpend and Care4Air, concludes that heavy industrial activity across the Indo-Gangetic belt has led to rapid degradation of air quality across north Indian region.