Kolkata and Delhi have ranked the two most polluted mega cities in India, according to reports of a Delhi-based NGO.
However, what is perhaps more alarming is that smaller towns and cities are fast catching up with the two metros in pollution stakes and could wrest the dubious tag in the foreseeable future.
“The overall air quality in Kolkata shows that both particulate matter and nitrogen oxide levels are among the highest in the city, with annual levels being double the permissible limits. Levels of other cancer-causing agents such as benzene have also been found to be very high in the city,” Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) of Centre for Science and Environment, said.
The study on air pollution was conducted across all megacities and other major cities and towns a few months back.
Among the mega cities covered in the study were Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.
“Nearly 785 cities in India have particulate pollution count that exceed the standard level. Only two cities—both from Kerala—meet the clean air benchmark of the Central Pollution Control Board for particulate matter measuring less than 10 microns,” Roy Chowdhury said.
Particulate matter less than 10 microns (one-fifth the size of your hair breadth), is deemed most harmful as they go deep inside the lungs and trigger all types of bronchial ailments and other fatal diseases.
“Several cities and towns in Bengal, including Howrah, Asansol and Durgapur are showing increasing signs of this small particulate matter. The level of nitrogen dioxide has also been going up in these cities. Almost all cities in Bengal have fallen foul of the standards prescribed for both nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter,” Roy Chowdhury said.
According to the study, the top ten sites recording alarming levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are in Bengal.
These include areas in Howrah, Bar rackpore, Durgapur, Asansol, Sankrail and Raniganj.
She said rampant vehicular pollution is one of the reasons behind the rising count of noxious elements in the air in the metros.
Kolkata logs one of the highest levels of vehicular pollution among all the mega cities in the country.
“To add to the woes, Kolkata Police has banned cycles and rickshaws on more than 170 roads between 7am and 11pm. Kolkata is the only metro where cycle trips outnumber cars. Such decisions will hurt the city’s air and increase risk of diseases manifold,” Roy Chowdhury said.