Lockdown improved city’s air, experts say time to think local
- Experts, however, attributed the reduction to the “unprecedented conditions” brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown and called for reforms to curb pollution by local and regional factors.
The pollution levels in Delhi last year were the lowest since 2014, according to the economic survey report released on Monday. The outcome budget, also presented on Monday, showed that 79% of government projects, to tackle pollution levels in the national capital and improve the environment, are on track.
Experts, however, attributed the reduction to the “unprecedented conditions” brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown and called for reforms to curb pollution by local and regional factors.
The government data also showed that the average levels of major pollutants, including that of PM10 (particulate matter with diameter less than 10 micrometres), PM2.5 (ultra-fine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) and nitrogen dioxide, have been decreasing steadily over the years.
The annual average concentrations of PM2.5 decreased from 149 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) in 2014 to 101 ug/m3 in 2020, the survey report tabled by finance minister Manish Sisodia on Monday showed.
The economic survey also said the annual average PM10 level also dropped from 324ug/m3 in 2014, to 187ug/m3 in 2020.
In India, the acceptable standard for PM 2.5 is 60ug/m3 and for PM10 it is 100ug/m3. The annual average for PM2.5 and PM10, at all monitoring locations in Delhi, exceeded the prescribed standards, the report said.
In the outcome budget, only around 15% of the projects to tackle pollution were behind schedule, a finding that bodes well for a city that has been plagued by rising pollution for long, especially during winter months.
“All 26 ambient air quality monitoring stations are functional. Around 621 stack samples regarding the emission of industries, power plants, hotels etc., were tested up to December 2020, against the target of 700 samples during 2020-21,” the outcome budget report said.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said, “Despite the declining trend (year-on-year basis) due to action taken over the past few years — shift to clean fuels for industry and transport, power plants, trucks, old vehicles — the winter PM2.5 concentration has bounced back, unmasking the impact of local and regional pollution. This demands quicker and more ambitious regional reforms to curb pollution.”