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Air Pollution: Not Just Limited To Delhi, Several Other Indian Cities Choking Due To Depletion In Air Quality

Not just Delhi, several other cities are struggling with polluted air as particulate matters reach hazardous levels, posing severe health risks

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Highlights
  • Moradabad, Gwalior and Patna are some of India’s most polluted cities
  • Industrial and vehicular emissions cause air pollution in these cities
  • Many of these cities featured on WHO’s most polluted cities list of 2016

Delhi’s smog cover shows no sign of going away. Even as the capital’s annual battle with severe air pollution continues, other cities of India are not faring well either. As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), five of India’s top 10 polluted areas are in Delhi, but many other cities fare equally or worse in terms of air pollution. PM2.5 and 10 are known to cause severe respiratory complications and prolonged exposure to these has been known to cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prescribed safe limits are – 10 mg/m,³ for PM2.5 and 20 mg/m³ for PM10. Urban India’s struggle for free air has been a concern for the past few years and though reasons vary from city to city as to why air is gradually becoming unbreathable. Some of India’s major cities today are struggling to breathe easily and citizens’ health is being compromised with.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on November 8 tweeted a satellite image of smog across northern India, signaling the dangerous proportions the crisis has reached.

Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

Delhi, which was ranked as the world’s most polluted city in terms of air pollution in a 2014 WHO report, was overtaken by Gwalior in 2016. Gwalior had an annual average on 170 mg/m³ of PM2.5, against WHO’s prescribed limits of 10 mg/m³ and 329 mg/m³ of PM10, against WHO’s prescribed limits of 20 mg/m³, making it India’s most and the world’s second most polluted city.

Industrial emissions on a regular basis have made Gwalior a hub of air pollution

Industrial emissions on a regular basis have made Gwalior a hub of air pollution

Gwalior’s rank as one of India’s most polluted city comes as a surprise, given how the city has done consistently well in managing waste and maintaining cleanliness. But industrial emissions from Malanpur in the last few years have worsened the city’s air condition. The industrial area, roughly 24 kilometres from Gwalior has nearly 300 industries flouting pollution norms. Gwalior also has ranked consistently as the leading city in Madhya Pradesh for vehicular pollution. A 2015 survey carried out by Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) found that 26.9 per cent of the city’s vehicles flouted pollution norms.

We have served regular notices to all the industries flouting pollution norms and also managed to close down a few of them. All vehicles will have to go mandatory emission checks to ensure that they do not contribute to air pollution, said N.P. Singh, Regional Director, Gwalior, MPPCB.

Gwalior’s Air Quality Index (AQI) on November 8 was at a severely hazardous at 425.

Bhiwadi, Rajasthan

Infamous for its industrial belt that belches out pollutant laden smoke daily, Bhiwadi in Rajasthan continues to be one of the most polluted cities in the country. Bhiwadi is situated in Alwar and is one of the state’s busiest industrial towns in terms of production, hosting nearly 2,700 small, medium and large scale industries. Industrial emissions have made air nearly unbreathable in the city. Bhiwadi was Rajasthan’s most polluted city this Diwali with AQI of 425.

10 heavy polluting industries in Bhiwadi were identified by the National Green Tribunal in February 2017 and have been asked to shut down. The severe levels of air pollution in Bhiwadi however, continues. Despite the closure of some severely polluting industries, the emissions from other small, medium and large scale ones continue to haunt the air of Bhiwandi. Since firecrackers are not banned in Rajasthan, their bursting has further contributed to Bhiwandi’s severe air pollution during Diwali.

We are presently trying to identify the industries which are polluting the region and will immediately ask them to shut down operations. We will also bring in regulations related to plying of diesel operated vehicles in Bhiwandi if the air quality reaches hazardous levels again, said V.K. Singhal, Chief Executive Engineer, Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board.

Bhiwandi’s Air Quality Index on November 8 was at a severe 467.

Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh

Moradabad has been the worst polluted city in India 2017, with an AQI count of 500 on November 7, 2017, as per CPCB’s reports. The AQI count for Moradabad has been above 450 from Diwali onwards, signaling the presence of PM2.5 and PM10 for the past three weeks. Moradabad is again an industrial hub where flouting of norms is common. Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) arrive at Moradabad for recycling, but many are burnt along with other garbage, resulting in toxic emissions in some of the city’s congested parts. A thermal plant in the city’s vicinity has worsened air pollution for Moradabad especially in the last three years. Officials from Uttar Pradesh’s state pollution control board were summoned by the CPCB on November 8 to discuss the crisis in the city as its AQI crossed the threshold of 500.

For the time being we are considering closure of schools for a few days till the AQI levels come down. Polluting industries must stop operations for a few days till the situation normalises, said Dr Rajeev Upadhyay, Chief Environmental Officer, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.

Moradabad’s Air Quality on November 8 was at a hazardous 439.

Patna, Bihar

The 2016 WHO report of most polluted cities in the world ranked Patna as the sixth most polluted city in the world. Despite not being a majorly industrial city, Patna’s air pollution levels are equal to or worse than the national capital from time to time, having PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations six times more than permissible limits daily. Erratic electricity supply throughout the city has resulted in many households becoming dependent on diesel generators for power supply. The minor industries situated in the city burnt an estimated 80 lakh litres of diesel per year and hence the emission levels were very high, as estimated by the Centre for Environment and Energy Development.

What Patna needs is an immediate action plan to tackle its unbreathable air. Small industries situated in and around the city must be regulated and stopped if necessary if they flout norms. Most importantly, vehicular traffic in the city must be regulated at the earliest to ensure that emission levels are under control, said Aditi Sinha of Shakti Foundation, a non-profit organisation working to tackle air pollution in Bihar.

Patna’s AQI on November 8 was at an unhealthy 318.

Rohtak, Haryana

The pollution scenario has undergone a drastic change in Rohtak in the past few years. The inflow of two-wheelers and other vehicles from Delhi on a regular basis has resulted in severe air pollution in the city in the last few years. The alarming increase in the number of autorickshaws in Rohtak has also contributed to the increase of air pollution in Rohtak. Further, many autorickshaws which fail emission tests in Delhi enter Rohtak and continue to ply. Polluting industries, small and medium scale in size, have also moved from neighbouring Delhi to Rohtak, following a Supreme Court order in 1999 which shut down several polluting industrial units in the capital. All these have contributed immensely in deteriorating Rohtak’s air quality. The AQI level in Rohtak post Diwali this year was a hazardous 361.

Increase in number of vehicles has caused severe air pollution in Rohtak

Increase in number of vehicles has caused severe air pollution in Rohtak

We have met with CPCB officials recently and have put forward a plan under which emission tests will be conducted across vehicles and industries. Licenses will be cancelled of those who do not comply with emission norms. This will however take time as there are estimated 9,000 autorickshaws in the city, said Mr S. Narayanan, Member Secretary, Haryana Pollution Control Board.

Rohtak’s Air Quality Index on November 8 was a severe 411

Conclusion

The five cities mentioned above are a chosen few from a list of many cities choking due to air pollution. Industrial and vehicular emission are common culprits as state pollution control boards have failed to curb emissions on time and hold those accountable for flouting norms.

Also Read: #SmogInDelhi: Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan Calls For Cost Effective Measures To Mitigate Air Pollution

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