When it comes to air pollution in India, it's Delhi which has been in the limelight for quite some time now. But several other Indian cities including Bengaluru, Chennai and Guntur are also showing deteriorating air quality with alarming pollution levels.
Not a single city in the country complies with standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to curb pollution, and only a few cities in southern India follow rules set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) standards, a Greenpeace India report has found.
Titled "Airpocalypse", the report assessed air quality in 168 cities across 24 states and union territories and stated fossil fuels as one of the main reasons for air pollution in the country. The report is based on information obtained through RTIs, websites and annual reports of State Pollution Control Boards and online reports.
"Air pollution is no more just the problem of Northern India and Delhi. Bengaluru and many other urban centers in southern India are breathing hazardous levels of pollutants in the air. It's time the people in Southern India also rise up to demand and contribute towards their right to clean air and move away from a polluting, fossil fuel based society to the greener option of clean energy and transport system. An aggressive shift towards public transport from the government and public is the need of the hour along with tackling other relevant sectors to make the air breathable for us and generations to come," Greenpeace campaigner Sunil Dahiya said.
Particulate matter are very fine but these are dangerous particles in the air. They are widely acknowledged as the most serious problem in Indian cities.
These include PM10 or particulate matter with diameter between 2.5 and 10 micrometers (includes coarse particles such as dust), and PM2.5 which has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers- 30 times finer than a human hair and the reason for most air-pollution deaths.
The report noted that several cities in Karnataka have PM10 concentrations higher than the annual average of 60 µg/m3 as prescribed under National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). "Levels of PM10 in the atmosphere in Davanagere, Bengaluru, Tumkur, Riachur and Hubbali were respectively 109, 119, 118, 87 and 80 µg/m3 for year 2015-2016," the report stated.
Some of the major sources of pollution, as estimated by a 2010 TERI study on Bengaluru's air quality, were recorded as transport (42%), road dust resuspension (20%), construction (14%) and industry (14%).
In Andhra Pradesh, PM10 concentrations in three cities- where data was available- were found to be higher than the annual average. PM10 concentrations in Anantpuram, Guntur and Visakhapatnam were recorded at 84, 100 and 61 µg/m3 respectively for 2015.
Chennai in Tamil Nadu also had higher PM10 levels throughout 2015 and industrial combustion contributed to 47% of PM10 emissions, followed by brick and open burning.
Having a system to monitor air quality across the country and making the data publicly available in real time, and using the data as a basis to fine-tune pollution reduction strategies, are some of the suggestions made by the NGO to reduce air pollution levels in the country.
"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.This report clearly shows that air pollution is not restricted to Delhi. Thus, our pollution reduction strategies need to be much more ambitious, systematic and with focused targets and clear timelines. Accountability and compliance mechanism should be in place, with no leniency towards the fossil fuel dependent sectors such as power and transport," Dahiya added.