Coordinated and strong actions needed to safeguard health of athletes and spectators at FIFA U-17 World Cup, says Greenpeace India

Press release - October 6, 2017
Average of PM10 levels in the six host cities last year in October was well beyond acceptable WHO standards. Strong Actions required to safeguard public health during and post FIFA.

New Delhi, 5th October 2017: In its latest study on India’s severe air quality crisis, Greenpeace India has reported that the average air quality levels in October 2016 for the six Indian cities that will host the FIFA Under-17 World Cup this year far exceeded the World Health Organisation’s prescribed safe standards.

The tournament kicks off on 6th October in Delhi, which will co-host the tournament along with Navi Mumbai, Kochi, Margao (Goa), Guwahati and Kolkata. However, only venues at Delhi, Navi Mumbai and Kochi will be equipped with real-time air quality monitoring stations to indicate the level of PM10 pollution. Monitoring stations relay critical air quality data that serves as a tool for health advisory to be issued to both players and spectators. Data will be especially significant in light of the study which indicates that PM10 levels on the 6th of October last year in Delhi were 234µg/m3, and 320µg/m3 on 16th October (when Delhi hosts the last tournament match this year). These values are over 4 times and 6 times above WHO’s PM10 limits of 50µg/m3 over a 24-hour period, respectively, and over 2 and 3 times above India’s PM10 standards of 100µg/m3 (over a 24 hour period).

Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace, says, “This is the time when India’s preparedness in tackling the health crises will be tested. The simplest way forward to reduce exposure of public and athletes is to see what Beijing did during 2008 Olympics. The coordinated actions taken at regional level (beyond city boundaries till 100s of kms) by coupling the Air Quality data with Emission Inventory and meteorological data to direct the polluting sources to either clean up their operation or asking them to reduce operations to minimize emission load led to reductions in pollution levels during the games. We in India have to learn from that and take the emergency measures now.”

The report warns that such severe levels of air pollution could also reduce the quality of football played at the tournament. According to a study by the German League, football matches that take place during periods of heavy air pollution are played more slowly. The study also found that health impacts are strongest when PM10 concentration is above 50µg/m3 and when players have fewer than five rest days between matches – which are exactly the conditions the players will deal with during the FIFA U-17 tournament in India if strong actions to clean the air are not taken.

High PM10 concentrations threaten the health of players and spectators - especially that of children and older people – leading to respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Even healthy young adults are advised to reduce outdoor activities at PM10 levels exceeding 100 µg/m3.

Pollution levels throughout major Indian cities are already very high (due to vehicular emissions, urban construction, emissions from thermal power plants and meteorological conditions). The burning of agricultural biomass (crop burning) in October along with onset of winter and festive season, the problem is expected to exacerbate. Last year, Delhi recorded an average PM10 concentration of 865 µg/m3 for October (14 times more than the annual Indian standard of 60µg/m3), along with Mumbai and Kolkata having average PM10 levels around 200 µg/m3.

However, undeterred, Dahiya adds, “The impact of air pollution on human health has been studied extensively, we have passed the stage of merely debating about air pollution, the need of the hour is for the government to implement strict, time-bound action plan to address various sources of air pollution across India. It's high time to realise the need for a national policy to combat air pollution through addressing the root causes for the problem, especially when the world is watching while we prepare to host an international level tournament”.

Here is the report.

Contact information:
Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, +91 9013673250 - Madhulika Verma, Communications Specialist, +91 9971137736 –