In the national capital Delhi, air pollution had even led to the suspension of an international cricket match in December 2017. But if things remain the same, the situation in the country’s IT capital Bengaluru, which currently has better air quality than Delhi, may suffer the same fate.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has not submitted any action plan to the Centre as part of the National Clean Air Programme to tackle air pollution in Bengaluru, Davangere, Gulbarga and Hubli-Dharwad. The cities were identified by the CPCB for having PM10 levels beyond permissible limit of 60 µg/m3.
The Centre had urged the pollution control board to submit action plans by August. This information was unearthed through an RTI query by Greenpeace India.
Reacting to this, Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “Air pollution is not only northern India and Delhi’s problem, it’s time for Bengaluru and many other urban centres in southern India to wake up and get their priorities right. Cities like Bengaluru should not become uninhabitable due to our inaction to protect the environment. There are four identified non-attainment cities in Karnataka, but none of them have submitted their draft action plans to tackle air pollution, as asked by the central government, which raises alarm. The public as well as local governments should act before it’s too late. Our inaction bears a heavy price tag. With every passing day, we are putting our health --and that of our future generations --at risk.”
However, it is not only these four cities which have non-permissible limits of PM10. According to Greenpeace’s Airpocalypse II report, the annual average levels of PM10 were beyond permissible limits in ten cities across Karnataka.
Despite TNM’s efforts, the Mayor and KSPCB Chairman could not be reached for a comment.
Shikha Kumar, Jhatkaa.org, which also runs campaigns on air pollution across the country, echoed Sunil’s thought. She said, “It's sad that both KSPCB and BBMP are not serious about mitigating air pollution. And the evidence is right in front of us. The spiking levels of vehicular emissions in Bengaluru, construction dust and garbage burning. The BBMP had issued a penalty order against burning waste two years ago but there's been no implementation.”
“We only speak of certain cities in the north like Delhi and Varanasi when it comes to severity of air pollution. But the question is, how long till Bengaluru gets there?” she added.
According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution is responsible for 7 million premature deaths globally every year. In 2016, there were over 1.1 million early deathsin India due to fine particulate matter and ozone pollution.
Incidentally, in December 2017, Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj had signed a treaty in New Delhi to play a mentoring role alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan in adopting model reforms to curb air pollution. The treaty was signed as part of the C40 Air Quality Network— an international non-profit focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and in the process minimise climate risks while increasing the health, well-being and economic opportunities of urban citizens.