Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Modi's Varanasi most toxic city of India, has zero good air days: Govt of India's top pollution watchdog

By Our Representative
India’s top environmental watchdog, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), has found Varanasi to be the most toxic city of the country. Notorious for water pollution because of the Ganga river, Varanasi is known to be the most polluted stretch in the country. However, how the CPCB has now found that of the 227 days for which it measured air quality, the holy city recorded zero good air days.
Quoted in a just-released report, titled “Varanasi Chokes! Particulate Matter Trends and Increasing Respiratory Ailments”, prepared by IndiaSpend, a data analysis site, the CPCB has found that the only other city which has zero good air days is also in Uttar Pradesh – Allahabad.
In order to provide a comparison, the CPCB provides data for other Uttar Pradesh cities. Thus, Agra has 17 per cent good air days (28 out of 165 days monitored); Kanpur 12 per cent (85 out of 730 days); Ghaziabad four per cent (five out of 127 days); and Lucknow three per cent (15 out of 566 days).
A city which sent Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Lok Sabha in the 2014 polls, the IndiaSpend report says, ever since, Varanasi has drawn “the maximum funds ever for the Ganga Action Plan … with a promise of 3 billion US dollars to clean up the river in a span of five years.”
The report further says, “One of the key sources of pollution in the river has been identified as the release of large amounts of sewage and a range of industrial effluents. Over 400 tanneries and industries are known to be operating close to the river and most of them release their effluents directly into Ganga.”
Yet, the report suggests, the high level of air pollution was ignored, even though it was identified in 2009, when the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a nationwide index to help identify critically polluted zones across the country.
“The Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) identified 43 critically polluted zones by taking into account the pollution levels in air, water and soil. Uttar Pradesh has six out of 43 polluted zones in the country – Singrauli, Ghaziabad, Noida, Kanpur, Agra and Varanasi”, the report notes.
Global pollution: Top 20 cities. WHO did not include Varanasi
IndiaSpend further recalls that in 2012, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi report on aerosols formation stated that “the entire Indo-Gangetic belt is prone to high levels of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur which in turn are responsible for increased levels of particulate matter in the air.”
Particulate matter, says the report, results in increased air pollution levels and is one of the key components responsible for asthma, chronic lung diseases and even heart diseases, with its impact being felt on the vulnerable sections of the population – children and the elderly.
It underlines, “The other important aspect with respect to air pollution that many tend to ignore is the role of coal fired power plants, worsening air quality. The Purvanchal region of the state has close to 11 coal-fired thermal power plants, producing close to 12,000MW of energy.”
It adds, “Studies done by a Delhi-based group, UrbanEmissions, has identified that the changing wind patterns in the Indo-Gangetic region especially during the winter time tend to carry the emissions from the power plants to several hundred kilometers depending on the speed of the wind, leading to an exponential spike in the regional pollution levels.” 
Interestingly, this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed of 20 most polluted cities in the world, 10 of them from India. Four of these ten are from UP – Allahabad, Kanpur, Firozabad and Lucknow. Varanasi is not on the WHO’s list; yet, CPCB has found the Prime Minister’s constituency has having India’s worst air quality.

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