Despite achieving a green cover of 46 per cent– 13 per cent more than the mandatory 33 per cent– the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Chandigarh has drastically deteriorated over time. The AQI has reportedly fallen from satisfactory to moderate in the last one-and-a-half month.
Chandigarh AQI was recorded as 144 on Tuesday. It was 125 on Monday. In October, the AQI was recorded as ‘Satisfactory’ for merely five days.
Chandigarh is among 112 Indian cities identified as Non-Attainment Cities for not meeting the prescribed standards of air quality.
Experts maintained that the city needs to change a lot of patterns including shifting the focus on index bio-diversity from merely plantation, system to avoid traffic congestion and plantation of trees at location where trees are axed. They maintained that a major chunk of trees in Chandigarh are not old, but damaged by termite.
Director UT Environment department, Debendra Dalai said, “Green cover and air quality are two separate things. There are several factors responsible for the deteriorating air quality of the particular area. Indeed, Chandigarh has achieved the surplus task of green cover, we have no control on the pollutant contents coming from neighbouring areas. A major source of air pollution on part of Chandigarh is vehicular traffic. We do not have much construction, industry emission etc. If Chandigarh was a coastal city, its AQI would be one of the best in the country.”
In resonance with Dalai, Chairperson of Department of Botany at PU, Daizy Rani said, “The AQI depends on the pollutant contents in the air. Green cover depends on the presence of trees in the specific area. The green cover mitigates the air pollution. But the good green cover is not the guarantee of good air quality forever. There could be several reasons behind the deteriorated air quality index. It could be enough vehicular population, traffic jams, construction etc. Moreover, the pattern of pollution in the neighbouring cities also make an impact. In view of Chandigarh, traffic/vehicular population is the main source. Chandigarh lacks industries but vehicle movements from adjoining states, even stubble burning during the particular season are prime factors.”
Sudhir Singla, a Panchkula-based activist working in the field of forestry, said, “Index Bio-diversity stresses on the plantation of specific trees which can mitigate pollutant contents in air. Shrubs, bushes etc also assist in increasing the green cover but these cannot mitigate the air pollution enough.”
The city was counted as a Non-Attainment City by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in March 2019. As per the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOE&F) guidelines, 33 per cent green cover is mandatory in every state and UT.
In its Greening Chandigarh Action Plan-2020-21, released on World Environment Day in June this year, UT Forest and Wildlife department claimed that the green cover of Chandigarh was 46 per cent, which is 13 per cent more than the fixed target of 33 per cent.
On October 22, National Green Tribunal (NGT) stressed on the fulfillment of nine agendas set up for Chandigarh for ensuring clean air.
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