Suspended particulate matter in air in most parts of the state were almost two times the safe limits in 2015, revealed an assessment of air pollution in Indian cities by not-for-profit Greenpeace India on Wednesday.
Within Maharashtra, Nanded topped the list for poor air quality with annual concentration of PM10 (particulate matter of size less than 10 microns) at 162 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) as against the permissible limit of 60ug/m3 under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Safe limit for PM10 emissions annually by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 20ug/m3.
Exposure to high levels of PM10 — they are solid and liquid particles, including dust and chemicals, floating in the air — leads to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and premature death.
Locations such as Panvel, Taloja, Navi Mumbai and Thane recorded higher annual PM10 levels than Mumbai that ranked number 10 at 107ug/m3. A study by the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay last year attributed high particulate matter in Mumbai to power plant (37%), open burning (24%), commercial food sector (18%) and road transport (10%).
In addition, all locations in 25 cities of Maharashtra were highly polluted between the months of October and January with PM10 levels exceeding 150ug/m3 – that’s nearly three times the safe limits.
“Pollution levels in Maharahtra are relatively less than other parts of the country, but still at very dangerous levels going by NAAQS and WHO standards. Hence it’s not safe to breathe in many parts of Maharashtra,” said Sunil Dahiya, campaigner, Greenpeace India, adding that fossil fuel burning is one of the main culprits for the deteriorating air quality in India.
Dahiya added that difference in pollution levels is also because some parts of Maharashtra such as Mumbai is near to coast. “With winds in different directions, mixing of pollutants in coastal areas is very high, thereby diluting the concentration of pollutants.”
The report titled ‘Airpocalypse’ by Greenpeace India, assessed air quality in 168 cities across 24 states and union territories found that none of the cities complied with standards set by WHO and NAAQS. The assessment was based on online reports and Right to Information applications by the state pollution control boards.
Nationwide, Delhi emerged as the most polluted city with PM10 levels at 268ug/m3 followed by Ghaziabad (258ug/m3), Allahabad (250ug/m3), Bareli (240ug/m3) in Uttar Pradesh, and Faridabad (240ug/m3) in Haryana.
The Global Burden of Disease study by (WHO) has estimated that every day 3,283 Indians died due to outdoor air pollution in 2015 – that makes it approximately 11.98 lakh deaths in India in 2015. Additionally, India loses around 3% of its Gross Domestic Product due to air pollution, as per estimates by the World Bank.
“Air pollution is taking a toll on public health going by rising number of respiratory problems. No government, industry or corporate is paying the health cost due to poor air,” said Dahiya. “Therefore, there is a serious need for people to start looking at air quality data, and ask the government to share the data in a more simplistic and comprehensive manner.