From most polluted in 2018, Gurugram’s air now seventh worst in world, says report

ByPrayag Arora-Desai
Feb 25, 2020 10:28 PM IST

Gurugram: The city, which topped the list of most polluted cities in the world in 2018, has improved its ranking by six places in 2019, according to a new report released on Tuesday by Swedish technology company IQ AirVisual.

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HT Image

From having the highest annual average concentration of PM2.5 pollutants in 2018, Gurugram now ranks at number seven on the list of world’s 50 most polluted cities, shows the 2019 World Air Quality Report. In 2019, the city recorded an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 93.1µg/m³, as against average PM2.5 concentration of 135.8 µg/m³ in 2018.

Neighbouring Faridabad’s air quality, too, saw an improvement, falling from number four on the list of world’s most polluted cities in 2018 to number 18 in 2019. From 129.1µg/m³ in 2018, the city recorded an annual average PM2.5 concentration of 85 µg/m³ the following year, as per the report.

Interestingly, Bandhwari, a village located about 20 kilometres from Gurugram (which is also the site of Haryana’s largest landfill), has made it to the list at number 10, with an annual PM2.5 concentration of 90.5 µg/m³. While there was no available data for the region in 2018, due to a lack of monitors, experts said that high levels of PM2.5 in Bandhwari were likely due to its proximity to the Gurugram-Faridabad road, with heavy vehicular movement.

Other major NCR cities which featured in the 2019 list include Ghaziabad (rank 1), Delhi (5) and Noida (6). On the whole, however, each of these cities recorded a reduction in the annual average quantity of PM2.5, a trend which was reflected across the country.

The report also features some new cities of India, which were not included in 2018 due to a lack of data. These cities include Greater Noida (rank 9), Bulandshahr (13), Muzaffarnagar (14), Bagpat (15), Jind (17), Bhiwadi (20), and Palwal (23).

As more and more cities in India, particularly in the NCR and in the north get monitoring stations, there is a greater chance of them making it to such lists, experts said.

“Every city in India with PM2.5 data in 2018 and 2019, except for Nagpur, saw a decrease in PM2.5 levels in 2019. As a weighted average based on the available data, national air pollution decreased by a remarkable 20% from 2018 to 2019. Unfortunately, these improvements may not be fully representative of the very recent but promising National Clean Air Programme and cleaner fuel Bharat VI introduction, but are rather more indicative of a slowing of the marketplace,” states the report.

For NCR towns, however, experts said these improvements can be better explained due to favourable meteorology, specifically the large number of western disturbances which prevailed over Delhi-NCR in 2019. “Western disturbances bring with them strong westerly winds and rain, which have positive impact on air quality. In the past year, we have seen several instances when Gurugram and other cities in NCR have witnessed a clean-up of their air due to weather conditions,” said Sachin Panwar, a city-based air quality scientist.

This view was echoed by Mukesh Khare, an air quality expert at IIT-Delhi and current member of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority. “I do not want to comment on the rankings per se, but it is plausible to suggest that improvements in NCR areas are due to favourable meteorology. However, the methodology of the AirVisual report will need to be scrutinised first before I can make a committed statement.”

The IQ AirVisual report uses data gathered from a large network of air quality monitors located across the world. In its observations, it notes, “India saw widespread improvements in PM2.5 levels in 2019, compared to the year prior as a result of economic slowdown, favourable meteorological conditions, as well as more dedicated efforts towards cleaning the air.”

Sumit Sharma, director (earth science and climate change) at TERI, said, “The improvements in Gurugram and NCR’s air quality may well be primarily due to meteorological factors. But one cannot discount the impact of policy interventions either. In rural areas, for example, LPG penetration has led to reduced biomass burning, and industries in and around Delhi are being made to run on PNG fuel instead of coal or husk. These would have had some impact on emissions in the past year. Whether they have materially impacted the concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere will need further study.”

Officials in the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) declined to comment for this story, as they had not yet read the report. Amit Khatri, deputy commissioner, Gurugram, on Tuesday did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.

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