As many as 21 cities in Karnataka require government intervention to reduce their air pollution load and at least seven of them will still remain above the danger mark by 2024 even if the government seriously implements its latest scheme to cut down the air pollution level. This is the findings of a new Greenpeace report that identifies 139 additional cities where air pollution levels exceed the national standards but were not included in the National Clean Air Programme, launched for 102 cities earlier this month.
The national programme aims to reduce the air pollution load in those cities – including Bengaluru, Davanegere, Kalaburgi and Hubli-Dharwad – from 2017 level by 20-30% in the next five years. The 102 cities were identified on the basis of 2015 data, but two years later the number of polluted cities have increased.
Greenpeace now sources data from 680 pollution measurement observatories in 313 cities to suggest that there are an additional 17 Karnataka cities (among the 139 additional ones) that need actions because the PM-10 level (dust particles of 10-micron size) is above the national standards of 60 micrograms per cubic metre.
They are Tumkuru, Belgavi, Shivmogga, Mangaluru, Karwar, Bidar, Kolar, Chamrajnagar, Bellary, Bagalkote, Mysuru, Raichur, Bijapur, Chitradurga, Kodagu, Davanagere and Hassan.
In the report, Greenpeace campaigners also estimate what could be the air pollution level in each of these 139 cities had NCAP been implemented in those cities. They found that the level of PM-10 in seven cities – Davanagere, Bengaluru, Raichur, Bijapur, Bidar, Tumakuru and Belgaum – would be above the national standards even with NCAP. The worst quality air would be experienced in Bidar and Tumakuru by 2024.
“Out of 313 cities with 2017 annual air quality data more than 77% (241) cities had PM levels exceeding the national air quality standard prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board, implying that all these cities belong on the non-attainment list. The NCAP covers only 102 of them leaving the remaining 139 unattended,” said Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India
“The NCAP is only a guiding document as it is not legally binding on the states. There is no provision of penalising anyone if the pollution load is not reduced,” he told.
There are 43 smart cities where the NCAP will be launched. But an analysis of the 2017 data shows that as many as 65 out of 100 proposed “smart cities” fall under the non-attainment category and a third of these smart cities don’t even have air quality monitoring data.
Air pollution is widely recognised as one of the major killers in India substantially impacting people’s health. According to India’s first state-wise disease burden report released by the Indian Council of Medical Research, one in every eight deaths in India was attributable to air pollution in 2017, making it a leading risk factor for death.
Dahiya admitted that the quality of data is suspect in many cases as the instruments are not properly calibrated and the data is collected manually. Also, very few stations collect PM-2.5 data. But still, the report gives a clear indication about the amount of polluted air that Indians are breathing.