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Primarily, air pollution is an urban phenomenon and the central government is focusing on monitoring air quality in urban areas, Union Minister of State for Environment Ashwini Kumar Choubey told Rajya Sabha on Thursday. Only 26 air quality monitoring stations in rural areas have been installed--24 in Punjab and two in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman on trial basis, out of total 1,243 such station, according to news agency PTI.

The minister informed that the central government has also sanctioned 17 air quality monitoring stations in rural areas of various states including five in Himachal Pradesh, two in Kerala, five in Mizoram, two in Odisha, one in Tripura and two in Uttar Pradesh.

He further quoted experts who say if the government does not keep a regular check on air pollution in rural, it doesn't mean that it does not exist there.

Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Principal Programme Manager, Clean Air, at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that air pollution is a regional issue and all the areas get affected. He said industries, thermal power plants and brick kilns are built near rural areas.

Chattopadhyaya suggested that the government's air pollution management strategy needs to move beyond city-centric approach and should cover all the areas in a state. He cited an example of Delhi and said that improving air quality in the national capital does not help if outer areas are not taken into consideration.

"A lot of satellite data and studies are available that show air pollution is a big problem in rural areas as well because a large part of rural India is now quite nearer to cities," said Chandra Bhushan, CEO of International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iForest).

Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, provided an example of poor air quality in the entire Indo-Gangetic plain to stress that air pollution "flows like a river" and all areas get affected.

He further stated that the Centre should simultaneously put out pollution data received from industries set up in rural areas.

Meanwhile, a study published in The Lancet journal reported that India's toxic air—particulate matter and household air pollution—claimed 1·24 million lives in 2017.

There are multiple sources of air pollution: household combustion of polluting fuels (for cooking primarily, but also for space and water heating and lamps), power plants and industry, vehicles, waste burning, road and construction dust and episodic sources like crop residue burning, according to the study.

It says that rural areas also experience high levels of pollution, however, there is negligible monitoring of air quality levels in rural areas. 

 

(With PTI inputs)

 

 

 

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