AQI of Bihar cities worsens despite huge investment, policy support
Huge investments, policy support and tie-ups with multiple expert groups notwithstanding, air quality index (AQI) of top Bihar cities remains a major worry.
The average AQI of Patna, Gaya and Muzaffarpur in the first week of June this year was found to be worse than the corresponding period of last year, which passed under the lockdown phase. This is despite the fact that the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) started striving for stringent implementation of the clean air action plan and spending of around ₹208 crore to check air pollution.
As per the Central Pollution control Board (CPCB) data, average AQI of Patna was found to be 92.25 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) parts per million (ppm) between June 1-8 this year as compared to last year’s 85.75 µg/m3, which too was beyond the permissible limit of 60 µg/m3.
Similarly, average AQI of Gaya and Muzaffarpur was found to be 61 µg/m3 and 100.62 µg/m3 respectively against last year’s 58.57 µg/m3 and 68.57 µg/m3 during the corresponding period.
The state environment and forest department and the BSPCB had signed agreements with various agencies like United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Development Alternatives Group, Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), etc, for different types of intervention to check air pollution over the last couple of years.
The BPSCB has also inked a deal with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, to help identify the major factors responsible for release of toxic contents in the ambient air. “The study would help up check those factors, which generally affect the air quality,” said Ghosh.
BSPCB chief Ashok Ghosh said that meteorological conditions should be taken into account while comparing the data. “The board has been actively pursuing the goal of implementing the clean air action plan, which was formulated with support from the ADRI a year and half ago. The action required convergence of roles of different government departments. A committee headed by the chief secretary has been formed to implement the action plan, but the outbreak of Covid19 pandemic slowed the process,” Ghosh said.
Principal secretary, department of environment and forest, Dipak Kumar Singh, said improvement of air quality was a long-term process and hence the change could be visible in so quickly. “Dust particles is a major issue for a state like Bihar that has a large tract of alluvial soil in Gangetic plain. Construction is another important irritant. We are coordinating with different departments to check the pollutants, but desired result remains elusive so far,” he said.
Environmentalist and public health expert Gopal Krishna said the Bihar government had done a lot on paper, but it was unable to implement the policies and schemes which could really bring about perceptible change. “Neither the common people nor the government agencies are bothered about the issues of air pollution. The government could not be serious to improve the air quality until it is linked with public health. BSPCB is grappling with infrastructure issues. The act related to air pollution, which was enacted in 1981, also needs to be amended,” said Krishna.