January 27, 2022 2:23:54 pm
A report by Greenpeace India analysing the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s data between November 20, 2020 to November 20, 2021 from ten major cities of south India reveals that average pollution levels far exceed the latest World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The analysis by the global environmental group is seen as a much-needed reminder that air pollution is a public health crisis that is not confined to cities only in north India.
Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Mangalore and Amaravati saw annual PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matter that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) levels exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of 5 µg/m3 by six to seven times. In Mysuru, Kochi, Chennai and Pondicherry, PM2.5 levels exceeded the guidelines by four to five times.
Air pollution data from ten cities – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Amaravati, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Mangalore, Puducherry, Coimbatore and Mysore – were selected and analysed based on the availability of data, population and monitoring station networks. It was found that despite pandemic-induced lockdowns and subsequent reduction in economic activities, the annual average values of PM2.5 and PM10 (particulate matter in the air with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less) exceeded WHO’s revised standards by many folds.
While annual PM10 levels in Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad exceeded the prescribed WHO standards of 15 µg/m3 by six to time, Bengaluru, Mangalore, Amaravati, Chennai and Kochi recorded data that exceeded the limit by three to four times. Mysore, Coimbatore and Pondicherry recorded PM10 data that exceeded the WHO standards for safe air by two to three times.
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The primary contributors to worsening the air quality are fossil fuel powered infrastructural development, industries, transport, waste burning and construction activity. Chronic exposure to air pollution increases the likelihood of asthma, low birth weight, depression, schizophrenia, diabetes, stroke, lung cancer and can cause premature deaths.
In Bengaluru, there are 10 monitoring stations located by CPCB and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), BTM layout, Bapuji Nagar, Hombegowda Nagar, Jayanagar 5th block and Saneguruvanahalli are commercial sectors. Hebbal, Silk Board, Peenya and BWSSB Kadubeesanahalli and industrial sectors.
The annual average values of PM2.5 and PM10 shows that at all the locations, the values are higher than WHO revised standards.
Commenting on the analysis, Avinash Chanchal, Campaign Manager, Greenpeace India says: “The data shows that lockdown is not a solution to air pollution. Relatively lesser economic activity and vehicles is also putting us in a dangerous position. We have to prioritize the immediate shift to clean energy and clean transport to stop more damage. If we look at Bengaluru’s PM10 data, the annual average in most stations is exceeding not only WHO guidelines, but NAAQS levels too.”
Chanchal also highlighted: “Making our urban transport networks accessible and sustainable can play a major role in combating India’s urban air pollution crisis. Majority of the population in these cities is already using public transport or sustainable ways of transportation. But the infrastructural focus is still on private vehicles. Efforts and lifestyle of the masses must be appreciated and encouraged as they are contributing to making our cities sustainable.” Terming the citizenry using public transport as ‘Heroes’, Chanchal adds, “The pollution control boards must realise that no level of air pollution is safe and even the long term exposure of lower levels of concentrations of air pollution can severely impact human health. Thus, the CPCB must revise the current national ambient air quality standards for all pollutants based on WHO’s proposed interim target and gradually achieve the revised standards.”
Greenpeace India’s Power The Pedal campaign is working with low-wage women labourers in Bengaluru and Delhi with the aim of building cycling communities that will act as agents of change. Our first 500 bicycles are being delivered in the first phase.
Honamma, a 38-year-old garment factory labourer from the IT capital, says that she feels proud she is part of the solution to her city’s pollution problems. “I am proud that since I am cycling I am not adding to the problem. But there are not enough facilities for cyclists. We don’t have enough cycle tracks and are constantly exposed to a lot of pollution from other vehicles. So if we have a separate lane then it will be better. There are parking facilities for motorists, we need such facilities for cyclists as well. If we want change then we have to ensure such facilities are provided.”
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