Lok Sabha discussion on Greenpeace Pollution report a welcome development: reinforces the call for a comprehensive NAQI and Clean Air Action plan

Press release - March 15, 2016
New Delhi 15th March 2016| Recent discussions in the Lok Sabha, triggered by the Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar’s response to parliamentarian C Mahendran’s questions, have highlighted the need for a comprehensive NAQI system and reinforced the demand for a Clean Air Nation action plan.

Responding to Minister Javadekar’s comments on Greenpeace’s recent China-India pollution report, Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, ‘We welcome the fact that Minister Javadekar, in his response to a question, has opened up discussions on our recent report and brought this to the attention of the Lok Sabha, as it re-emphasises the need to launch a truly comprehensive NAQI system and a Clean Air Action Plan for the country, as thousands of our supporters have been demanding through our Clean Air Nation campaign’

As the methodology of the report Clean Air Action Plan; The Way Forward had already highlighted, it is based on NASA satellite images processed for Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD); the purpose behind releasing this data was to highlight how, in the absence of public data on PM2.5 levels, an analysis of this AOD provides the only viable option to effectively highlight trends in PM2.5 levels. In doing so, the report exposes both: the absence of a comprehensive public data sharing system on pollution levels, as well as the state of emergency caused by current levels of Air Pollution over large parts of India. On the issue of trends of data fluctuation across 254 cities where air quality is monitored, it is important to note that currently, the data on levels of PM2.5 and other pollutants in those cities is not publicly  available - neither in real time, nor for comparison with data from previous years.

The Greenpeace report compared the satellite based measurement (AOD) to the actually measured concentration (extracted through NAQI platform) and the correlation was shown to be more than 71% between the two (higher than a similar comparison in China which showed 63% correlation).

Our earlier report “A status assessment of National Air Quality Index (NAQI) and pollution level assessment for Indian cities” that compared official data from the NAQI web portal in India with an online platform for data sharing in China , also suggests that the pollution levels in some North Indian cities were higher than some of the main polluted cities in China, which included Beijing, Shanghai and Jinan.

Importantly, government data, as well as all our studies, make similar conclusions and establish two indisputable facts: first,  that the pollution levels in North Indian cities (particularly those in the Indo-Gangetic Plains or IGP) are way higher than the national ambient air quality standards. Second, that pollution levels have been rising steadily over the years. We have to acknowledge the fact that the pollution levels in most of India and specially in north indian IGP have reached a level of National Health Emergency that warrants a strident and proportionate response.

Greenpeace is calling for an ambitious and systematic Clean Air action plan, with focused targets, clear timelines and demonstrable accountability towards public health along with public data sharing for 254 cities as mentioned by Environment minister as well as expanding the network to new places. The right combination of policies including power generation, industry, transport and agriculture, can help India take major strides towards resolving this slow-burning disaster. “This crisis is an opportunity to test India’s emergency response plan , and we hope the Environment Minister will continue today’s discussion and lead us towards a focussed, coordinated Clean Air Nation Action Plan.” concluded Sunil Dahiya.

Important Links:

Clean Air Action Plan: The Way Forward- http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/2015/docs/nationalcleanairactionplan.pdf

A status assessment of National Air Quality Index (NAQI) and pollution level assessment for Indian cities- http://www.greenpeace.org/india/Global/india/2015/docs/India-NAQI-PRESS.pdf

Central Pollution Control Board, Air Laboratory, City wise AQI Values Categorisation, (September 2015 to January 2016)- http://cpcb.nic.in/MonthlyAQI-Bulletin(Sept-15tojan-6).pdf

Central Pollution Control Board, Air Laboratory, Index Values of Air Quality in Different Cities (February 2016)- http://cpcb.nic.in/NAQI-FEB-DATA.pdf

For Further details-

Madhulika Verma, Communication Specialist, Greenpeace India; +919971137736,

Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India; +919013673250,