Air quality in India has always been a concern. Delhi remains the most polluted city in the country where things got so bad recently that a test match played in December last year saw players from the opposing team wear masks, which was unprecedented.
Airpocalypse II, a report by Greenpeace India, sheds light on just how bad the situation is, in the country. The report states that it is “palpably clear that none of the cities/states have measurable targets aimed at reducing pollution levels.” The report has data from 2015 and 2016 for 280 towns and cities across India.
As per the data, 228 towns and cities do not comply with the annual permissible concentration of PM10 of 60µg/m³, as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). As far as the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard is concerned, none of the cities achieve the annual permissible limit of 20 µg/m³.
The data covered 630 million Indians, of which 550 million live in areas where air pollution levels exceed the national standards of PM10 levels, and this includes 47 million children under the age of five.
PM10 refers to particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or less in diameter.
Here’s how the southern states fared according to the report:
Except for Kurnool and Tirupati between June and September, consistently high levels of pollution were recorded throughout the year. In the 15 cities they had data for, including Guntur, Kadapa and Rajahmundry - all of them had higher concentration of PM10 as per NAAQ standards, and were almost three times more polluted than what is recommended by the WHO. Vijayawada and Guntur were the most polluted.
Bengaluru’s traffic snarls are infamous. The number of vehicles on the road is almost always too high. With this being the case, it’s not surprising that for eight out of 12 months, Bengaluru’s air quality standard was above the daily permissible limit of 100 µg/m³.
Pollution levels were consistent between 2015 and 2016, with a slight increase in Tumakuru, Bidar, Hubli and Dharwad. Places such as Bengaluru, Davangere and Kolar saw a slight decrease but it did not bring them under permissible levels even according to the standards set in India.
The highest PM10 levels were recorded in Tumakuru and Bidar. Data was recorded in 18 cities and towns in Karnataka.
Data was recorded in 11 cities and towns across Telangana including Hyderabad, Warangal and Medak. IT Hub Hyderabad, unsurprisingly, had the highest PM10 levels. In November 2016, the recorded PM10 levels were 17% higher than the daily standard and almost twice as much the annual standard. In 2016, the cities and towns that exceeded the annual PM10 levels by NAAQ standards included Medak, Mehboobnagar, Adilabad and Hyderabad.
Of the seven cities and towns for which data was recorded in Tamil Nadu, Thoothukudi emerged as the most polluted - a city which has been plagued by pollution for a while. The PM10 levels in Thoothukudi were a shocking 182 µg/m³. While Chennai and Madurai were marginally above the NAAQ levels, Thoothukudi was way above the permissible limit. Cuddalore, Coimbatore and Salem remained within the permissible limit.
The only saving grace is Kerala. Among the 14 cities and towns where data was measured, the ambient air quality in every one of them was within the NAAQ limits. Pathanamthitta was just marginally above WHO levels.