47 million children worst affected: Airpocalypse II, Greenpeace India report

New Delhi, 29 January 2018 | Airpocalypse-II, a Greenpeace India report released on Monday, analyses PM10 annual average recorded for 280 cities which have 630 million, or 53% citizens of the country’s total population. A massive part of the population, 580 million (47%) of the population are living in areas where no air quality data is available.

Out of 630 million close to 550 million people live in areas exceeding national standards for PM10, including 180 million living in areas where air pollution levels are more than twice the stipulated limit of 60g/m3which has been set by Central Pollution Control Board.

The report highlights that as many as 47 million children under the age of five years are residing in areas where PM10 levels exceeded CPCB annual limits, including 17 million children under the age of five who are in the areas where pollution levels are more than twice the limits. Children are worst affected in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Delhi respectively. Together these states are home to 12.9 million children who are below or upto five years of age trapped in bad air exceeding by more than twice the annual standard.

Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India said:  “Only 16% of the population inhabiting the districts have real time air quality data available portrays how in-humanly we are responding to the national health crises in front of us. Even the manual data collected for 300 cities/towns across the country is not shared in a timely manner and in a format which can be accessed and understood easily by general public.”

Ranking of cities based on annual average of PM10 levels reveals- Delhi as the worst polluted city with 290 μg/m3 followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Patna with annual average ranging from 272 μg/m3, 262 μg/m3 & 261 μg/m3 respectively. Surprisingly, Dehradun in Uttrakhand, once thought to be a salubrious preserve of retiring elite, also made it to the top 10 list of worst polluted cities with 238 μg/m3 annual average of PM10. The annual average of PM10 levels for the top 20 most polluted cities are between 290 μg/m3 and 195 μg/m3,for the year 2016.

Dahiya further added “Delhi remained the worst impacted city with annual PM10 levels exceeding approximately 5 times the national ambient air quality standards. The fact that less than 20% Indian cities are complying with the national, or CPCB, standards sadly points to the lack of workable, robust and timely action plans so far.”

The report adds that most polluted cities are spread across the Indo-Gangetic basin with southern cities being slightly better off than their northern counterparts. However, cities in south also need focused and time bound action plan to bring air quality to achieve the WHO standards showing a pathway for other cities across India.

The National Clean Air Programme recently announced by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change firstly needs to be comprehensive, systematic and time bound plans with fixed accountabilities and secondly it needs to be made public soon for it to come into action, which will also help in having active participation of the general public and all layers of the government to take the idea to the ground level along with tackling myriad sources of pollution daunting the quality of air through vast parts of the country.

Footnote: The report analysed data obtained from National Air Monitoring Programme, RTI responses from State Pollution Control Boards and annual reports along with websites of various State Pollution Control Boards.

Way Forward Suggested in Airpocalypse Report Part-II

  1. Institute robust monitoring mechanism of air quality across the country,
  2. Real time data sharing for data from Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQS) and near real-time data sharing for manual stations with public on various platforms.
  3. Health advisory and ‘red alerts’ for bad-air days in order to alert public to take precautionary steps to protect their health and the environment and directions to the industries to reduce their pollution emission load.
  4. Measures like shutting down schools, reduction of traffic, shutting down power plants and industries etc should automatically come into force as soon as air quality deteriorates beyond a specified level and takes alarming proportions.
  5. Use of data as a basis to fine tune pollution reduction strategies that must, inter alia, seek to improve public transport and reduce use of fossil fuel by vehicles, generators and water pump sets that are commonly used by cultivators in the farm sector.
  6. Stricter enforcement of laws to take polluting vehicles off the roads. Introduction of higher fuel standards like Bharat VI for motor vehicles.
  7. Enforcement of stiff emission regulations and improved efficiency for thermal power plants and industries.
  8. Moving from diesel generators to rooftop solar power backup and increased use of clean renewable energy.
  9. Incentivising use of electric vehicles.
  10. Dust removal from roads or covering pavement by green cover and regulation of construction activities.
  11. Ban on waste burning and
  12. Find sustainable alternatives to the biomass burning as soon as possible.

These strategies should be formalised into a time bound action plan with clearly defined targets and penalties in case of non-compliance so as to ensure accountability. While some actions might need to be city or region-specific, these ought to be a part of a broad range of nationally applicable actions with active public participation.

Airpocalypse II Video Link- http://bit.ly/2DXZFK8

Airpocalypse II Report Link- https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-india-stateless/2018/05/Airpocalypse_II_29Jan18.pdf

Photo Link- http://bit.ly/2BA1rfu

For Further details-
Madhulika Verma; Sr. Media Specialist ; 9971137736
Jitendra Kumar; Sr. Media Specialist ; 9868167337
Sunil Dahiya, Sr. Campaigner ; 9013673250