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6.7 million children below 5 years breathe dangerously toxic air in Maharashtra, shows study

The second edition of India’s air quality report by Greenpeace India was released on Monday

mumbai Updated: Jan 30, 2018 11:03 IST
Snehal Fernandes
Snehal Fernandes
Hindustan Times
Exposure to high levels of PM10 can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Exposure to high levels of PM10 can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.(HT File Photo)

Around 6.7 million children below five years of age in Maharashtra are inhaling particulate matter (PM10) that is above the permissible limits set by the law, revealed the second edition of air quality report in India by Greenpeace India on Monday.

The report also said 1.4 million of these children are exposed to twice the pollution standards.

Additionally, 2.6 million children live in districts where there are no air-quality monitoring stations.

Exposure to high levels of PM10 — they are fine harmful solid and liquid particles floating in the air with a diameter of 10 microns — leads to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and premature death. “It’s time we understand the sources of pollution. While India does have guidelines for outdoor pollution, we need to study indoor air pollution, which is a much-neglected issue right now that has no prescribed emission limits,” said Avick Sil, regional director, Environment Policy and Research India, who was not part of the Greenpeace study. “Similar to measuring ground-level ozone, there is a need to also study particulate matter at the ground level. A comprehensive air pollution mitigation policy can be thought of only if we look at both forms of pollution,” he said.

Across India, about 47 million children below 5 years live in areas where PM10 levels exceeded annual air pollution limits, including 17 million children under the same age in areas where pollution levels are more than twice the prescribed limits.

The latest version of the Airpocalypse II report, which analysed PM10 annual average of 280 cities across India with a population of 630 million, found that in 2016, none of the 24 cities and towns across Maharashtra with air quality monitoring facilities complied with the annual PM10 air quality standards set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Six of the 24 locations recorded annual PM10 levels twice the permissible limit of 60 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) by CPCB, and almost seven times above the standard of 20ug/m3 by the World Health Organisation.

Nanded recorded the highest annual PM 10 levels at 151ug/m3, followed by Dombivali (140ug/m3), Mumbai (130ug/m3), Akola (123ug/m3), Badlapur (122ug/m3), and Ambernath (121ug/m3)

In addition to Mumbai, the annual PM10 levels for other major cities of Maharashtra stood at 117ug/3 at Thane followed by Pune (99ug/m3), Nashik (86ug/m3), Nagpur (82ug/m3), Navi Mumbai (93%), and Panvel (118ug/m3).

“This report, which is second in the series after last year, once again raises an alarm for regions like Maharashtra where the air pollution situation is already at hazardous levels and increasing day by day,” said Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Dahiya added, “Cities like Mumbai should lead by examples of not being on list of most polluted and unhealthy cities to live in, but in being the cities where clean air, environment and health is prioritized to provide better quality of life for public.”

In 2017, the MPCB, based on the National Clean Air Programme, started the process of formulating an action plans to mitigate air pollution for multiple cities in the state. “We have had consultation meetings with various stakeholders and agencies such as municipal corporation, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay. We are in the process of drafting an action plan,” said VM Mothghare, joint director, MPCB.

The Greenpeace India report used monthly PM10 data for 2016 from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), and 65 manual and continuous air quality monitoring stations. The report found that 23 states had no real-time air quality monitoring data available to citizens – highest real-time coverage was found in Delhi followed by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

First Published: Jan 30, 2018 11:03 IST

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