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Urban India's air quality deteriorated by 13% in 2010-15; China improved by 17%, US by 15%, European Union by 20%

By Rajiv Shah
In one of the sharpest critiques of air pollution in the recent past, a fresh report has said that air quality levels in urban India between 2010 and 2015 deteriorated by 13% at a time when these improved by 17% in China. The pollution levels improved in the US by 15%, and 20% in European Union (EU), it reveals.
“In 2016, severe air pollution has disrupted everyday life, especially during the winter”, the report notes, insisting, “In 2015 air pollution (PM2.5) levels in India increased in a rapid manner overtaking even China.”
Calculated as PM2.5 air quality standards, the report, “Airpocalypse: Assessment of Air Pollution in Indian Cities”, and authored by top international environmental NGO Greenpeace’s Sunil Dahiya, Lauri Myllyvirta and Nandikesh Sivalingam, states, pollution levels in India’s cities have been “increasing steadily for past 10 years”, with 2015 being “the worst year on record.”
Short for "Particulate Matter, 2.5 micrometers or less" "PM2.5 particles are air pollutants with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, small enough to invade even the smallest airways, and are known to produce respiratory and cardiovascular illness. Released this month, the report says, as against India, China’s PM2.5 levels have been falling since 2011.
While estimating deaths per day because of PM2.5 in 2013 was 2,700 in China, as against 1,800 in India (250 in US and 640 EU), the report, however, regrets, “PM2.5 monitoring in China, as of February 2016, is being carried out in 1,500 stations in 900 cities and towns, as against 39 stations in 23 cities in India.”
Things apparently two years later. According to the report, “The Global Burden of Disease (GBD), a comprehensive regional and global research program including 500 researchers representing over 300 institutions and 50 countries, has estimated that 3,283 Indians died per day due to outdoor air pollution in India in 2015, making the potential number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution in India in 2015 to 11.98 lakh.”
Considering coal-based electricity units the main cause of pollution, the report says, “The share of thermal power plants with basic pollution controls (desulphurization, particle controls)” is 95% in China, as against just 10% in India.
Pointing out that “deadline for meeting national air quality standards in China is 2030”, with most key cities having “an interim target for 2017”, the report says, As for India no such deadline has so far been fixed.
Giving details of air pollution levels in terms of PM10 for approximately 175 cities in order to point out if they meet National Ambient Air Quality (NAAQ) standards, the report says, “Deadly air pollution is not a problem restricted to Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) or even to India’s metros. It is a national problem that is killing 1.2 million Indians every year and costing the economy an estimated 3% of GDP.”
Based on data gathered by Greenpeace India from state pollution control boards, often using right to information (RTI) tool, the report says, “There are virtually no places in India complying with World Health Organization (WHO) and NAAQ standards, and most cities are critically polluted”, except for “a few places in Southern India.”
Pointing out that “there has been a growing realization that the majority of Delhi’s pollution is coming from outside its borders”, the report says, “Pollution levels in other states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are also increasing.”

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