No Indian city meets WHO air quality norms: Greenpeace report

Greenpeace’s ‘Airpocalypse’ report identifies fossil fuels as one of the main culprits for the increasing air pollution in Indian cities


Greenpeace report said that most polluted cities are spread across the North India, starting from Rajasthan and then moving along the Indo-Gangetic belt to West Bengal. Photo: Mint
Greenpeace report said that most polluted cities are spread across the North India, starting from Rajasthan and then moving along the Indo-Gangetic belt to West Bengal. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: No Indian city complies with air quality standards prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and very few cities in southern India comply with the norms set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India’s nodal pollution watchdog, said a report released by NGO Greenpeace on Wednesday.

The report ‘Airpocalypse’ assessed air quality in 168 cities across 24 states and union territories and pinpoints fossil fuels as one of the main culprits for the deteriorating air quality.

The report was prepared using information obtained through online reports and Right to Information (RTI) applications from state pollution control boards across India. According to the report, the top 20 most polluted cities have particulate matter (PM 10) levels between 268 µg/m3and 168 µg/m3 for the year 2015.

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“While Delhi tops the list with 268 µg/m3, it is followed closely by Ghaziabad, Allahabad, and Bareli in Uttar Pradesh, Faridabad in Haryana, Jharia in Jharkhand, Alwar in Rajasthan, Ranchi, Kusunda and Bastacola in Jharkhand, Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna In Bihar, with PM10 levels ranging from 258 µg/m3to 200 µg/m3 ,” the report said.

PM (particulate matter) up to 10 micrometres in size and less is considered the most dangerous pollutant in the air.

Air pollution is a national public health crisis as almost none of the cities have bothered to keep air pollution in check, making them unlivable. We are facing an apocalypse right now due to unbreathable air. Deaths due to air pollution are only a fraction less than those due to use of tobacco, yet authorities are turn a deaf ear to the numerous scientific reports that have set alarm bells ringing,” says Sunil Dahiya, campaigner, Greenpeace India in an official statement.

India’s pollution trends have been steadily increasing, with India overtaking China in number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution in 2015. India’s deteriorating air quality demands an urgent robust monitoring system,” Dahiya said.

An analysis by the environment ministry shows that 60% of 249 Indian cities where air pollution is monitored, have witnessed an increase in the level of PM 10. According to the analysis, the annual average levels of PM 10 for 2011, 2012 and 2013 have exceeded in 148, 137 and 152 cities, respectively.

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The Greenpeace report also said that most polluted cities are spread across the North India, starting from Rajasthan and then moving along the Indo-Gangetic belt to West Bengal.

“A closer analysis of the data obtained through RTI and previous studies on air pollution pinpoint to continued use of fossil fuels as the main culprit for the dangerous rise in the level of pollutants in the air across the country,” the report added.

In December, the Supreme Court had approved a set of steps to be taken whenever air quality deteriorates beyond a certain level in Delhi-NCR area. The plan sets in motion a series of steps that every authority—central government, Delhi government, municipal corporations and Delhi’s neighbouring states—need to take as pollution levels spike.

Greenpeace said a similar system needs to be implemented across the country, coupled with robust monitoring systems in place so that people can have access to real time data on the level of pollutants in the air.

“This report clearly shows that air pollution is not restricted to Delhi. Thus, our pollution reduction strategies needs to be much more ambitious, systematic and with focused targets with clear timelines. Accountability and compliance mechanism should be in place, with no leniency towards the fossil fuel dependant sectors such as, power and transport,” Greenpeace said in an official statement.

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