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95 out of 131 cities show improvement in air quality: Govt data

The air quality of as many as 95 cities out of 131 cities have improved under the National Clean Air ProgrammePremium
The air quality of as many as 95 cities out of 131 cities have improved under the National Clean Air Programme

  • Varanasi recorded the highest decline in PM 10 concentration at 53% in 2021-22 compared to the baseline of 2017
  • Greenpeace India's report stated that the greatest proportion of people living in India is exposed to PM2.5 concentrations more than five times the WHO annual average guideline

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The air quality of as many as 95 cities out of 131 cities have improved under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), the Ministry of Environment informed. Varanasi recorded the highest decline in PM 10 concentration at 53% in 2021-22 compared to the baseline of 2017. The ministry data added that Varanasi's annual PM 10 concentration was 244 micrograms per cubic metres in 2017. And by 2021-22, the air pollutants declined to 144 micrograms per cubic metres.

Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the country, also witnessed an improvement in air quality. As per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s assessments, Delhi’s PM 10 annual average concentration was 241 micrograms per cubic metres in 2017. It has declined to 196 micrograms per cubic metres in 2021-22, a drop of 18.6%.

On the occasion of the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, the union environment ministry said 27 cities under the NCAP including Chennai are meeting the annual PM 10 air quality standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metres.

However, the officials in the ministry cautioned that the pollution level needs to be monitored to be sure that they are able to sustain improvement.

The environmental ministry noted that 131 cities of the country have developed City Action Plans and Micro Action Plans to address various sources contributing to poor air quality such as vehicles, road dust, construction, industries, thermal power plants, burning of waste, Construction, Demolition Waste, etc.

Centre for Science and Environment executive director Anumita Roychowdhury said NCAP set a national level target of 20-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024 from the 2017 base year.

The Centre launched the NCAP in 2019 to reduce PM 10 and PM 2.5 pollution by 20 to 30% over 2017 levels by 2024 across cities which did not meet air quality standards for five consecutive years.

However, according to the latest report by Greenpeace India, more than 99% of India's population breathes air that exceeds World Health Organisation's health-based guidelines.

Greenpeace India's report stated that the greatest proportion of people living in India is exposed to PM2.5 concentrations more than five times the WHO annual average guideline.

It further said that 62% of pregnant women in the country live in the most polluted areas, compared to 56% of people in the whole population.

As per the report's annual average PM2.5 exposure analysis, the region with the highest exposure to pollution in the country is Delhi-NCR.

PM2.5 refers to fine particles which penetrate deep into the body and fuel inflammation in the lungs and respiratory tract, leading to the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory problems, including a weak immune system.

The report stressed that there is an “urgent need" to make NCAP more “transparent, comprehensive and stronger".

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