Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Indian cities don't have "smart" targets to reduce pollution, 80% fail to meet national standards: Greenpeace

By Our Representative
A recent report by international NGO Greenpeace has said that, out of 280 Indian cities for which it obtained data to assess air pollution levels, as many as 228, or 80%, are found to be not complying with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Defined as µg/m3 – suggesting the concentration of an air pollutant in micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter air – these cities, says the report, do not complying with “the NAAQS standard of 60 µg/m³, as prescribed by CPCB for annual permissible levels.” Notably, the World Health Organization’s annual standards are 20 µg/m³.
Titled “Airpocalypse II: Assessment of Air Pollution in Indian Cities”, the report, says that Delhi “still remains the top-most polluted city, and is closely followed by many more towns like nearby Faridabad and Bhiwadi and far off Dehradun, Varanasi, and Patna”, all of which are "5 strewn along the fertile and heavily populated Indo-Gangetic basin”.
However, it adds, “The emphasis so far has more been on the Delhi-NCR region”, despite the fact that the “major part of Delhi’s pollution is coming from outside its borders, meaning neighbouring states”, which “cannot said to be in the safe zone.”
The report, published at a time when the Government of India is pushing hard to make them "smart", regrets, except for Delhi-NCR, “None of the cities/states have measurable targets aimed at reducing pollution levels”, adding, “Most actions suggested until now are just initiatives on paper that have no monitoring mechanism to achieve their estimated benefit through the implementation of targeted policies.”
Thus, while for Delhi-NCR a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has come into force, in Lucknow is the only other city which has copied it, but only on paper. “Its implementation still seems to be a distant dream), no other city seems to be taking any action of any worth against the polluters”, the report notes.
Pointing out that pollution levels in other states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra “are also increasing quite a bit”, the report says, “Out of the 630 million Indians covered by the data, 550 million live in areas exceeding national standard, and 180 million live in areas where the air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated standards.”
“This includes 47 million children under 5 years of age, living in areas where the standard is exceeded and 17 million in areas where the air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated standards”, the report states.
“The largest numbers of people in areas with more than twice the stipulated levels of pollution are in Uttar Pradesh (64 million), followed by Rajasthan (20 million), Maharashtra (19 million), Delhi (17 million) and Bihar (15 million)”, notes the report.
It adds, “The most are children under 5 years of age, living in areas where the standard is exceeded more than twice are also in Uttar Pradesh (6.3 million) and Rajasthan (2.1 million), followed by Bihar (1.7 million), Maharashtra (1.4 million) and Delhi (1.4 million).”
What is of equal concern, says the report, is the fact that “580 million Indians live in districts with no air quality data available, including 59 million children under 5 years of age”, adding, “Real time data is available for only 190 million Indians, or 16% of the population.”
At the same time, the report notes, “Unlike in the North many cities in the southern part of the country may not need emergency response plans but most of them do need long term action plans to bring pollution levels down below NAAQS limits and aim to meet WHO standards for air quality.”

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