Green score in Delhi hit by persistent poor AQI
Consistent poor air quality and high levels of microscopic particulate matter pollutants have got Delhi 42nd rank in the environment category among 49 cities with a million or more population in a survey by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry for the Ease of Living report that was released on Thursday.
Environment was one of the metrics under the Sustainability Pillar on which Delhi scored 56.02, slightly above the national average of 53.63, securing the 28th rank. According to the report, for ranking the cities on environment indicators such as water quality, total tree cover, hazardous waste generation and air quality index (measuring SO2, NO2, and PM10) were considered.
Despite steps by local and central agencies, Delhi’s city’s air quality takes an annual plunge every winter, with the air quality hitting ‘emergency’ levels on the AQI scale, especially between December and January. The cold conditions and low wind speed often contribute to worsening the pollution levels. A CSE analysis released on Wednesday showed that in 2020 even though the severity and duration of smog episodes were lower, the seasonal average levels of PM 2.5 was higher.
“Infrastructural capacity, economic opportunities and welfare services are already under tremendous pressure with rapid expansion of urban spaces. Yet, looming threats arising due to climate change have the potential to cause irreversible damage to the world as we know it. For India, the impact may be even higher,” the report read.
Pune, with a score of 75.74 topped the list of cities in the Sustainability category, followed by Visakhapatnam, which scored 65.18 and Pimpri Chinchwad, whose score was 65.09.
Environmental experts said that the city still needs to do a lot of work in the fields of water and waste management and providing a green urban infrastructure to its citizens.
The Institute for Management Development (IMD), in collaboration with Singapore University for Technology and Design (SUTD), had released the 2020 Smart City Index last year, which showed that Delhi’s global rankings had dropped from 68 in 2019, to 86 last year.
“Cities in India (New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru) suffer significant drops this year. This can be attributed to the detrimental effect that the pandemic has had where the technological advancement was not up to date,” the report said.
It added that apart from the problem of air pollution, Delhi needed to tackle the issues of “basic amenities”, such as the provision of clean water to all.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that Delhi was particularly lagging in its efforts towards solid waste management.
“Work has been done in the field of pollution control and we are seeing that every year, Delhi is managing to bring down its pollution curve but a major area where work is lagging is solid waste management, there are still areas where door-to-door waste collection is not happening. Recycling is not the focus and dumping at landfills is continuing; all these areas factor in to make a city more sustainable,” Roychowdhury said.
The report said that cities such as Delhi, Greater Mumbai, Kochi, Hyderabad, Indore, Trivandrum and Lucknow showed poor performance in developing green spaces and buildings.
Green spaces and buildings include indicators of availability of green spaces, whether the city incentivises green buildings, and the presence of green buildings.