Indian Cities Amongst The Most Polluted: WHO
Want to breathe in clean air? Mangaluru, Mysuru, Bhubaneswar and Trichy could be the ideal places to be for you. These are among the least polluted cities in India, data available with Numbeo, a crowd-sourced global database, show. On the other hand, several Indian cities top the charts when it comes to pollution. For example, national capital is placed Delhi sixth in the list of world's 15 most polluted cities. Interestingly, the holy city of Varanasi is placed third in this list, claims Political Leaders Position and Action on Air Quality in India 2014-2019, a report by Climate Trends.
Indian cities of Kanpur, Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya, Patna, Delhi, Lucknow, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurugram, Jodhpur are among the worst polluted, shows a WHO report. Numbeo also adds Ghaziabad, Noida, Allahabad, Raipur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Gwalior, etc., in this list where pollution index is as high as 95. The WHO claims that air pollution and climate change is one of the major threats to global health in 2019 as nine out of every ten people breathe polluted air, every day.
The WHO study shows that almost seven million people die every year owing to pollution-related causes across the world, and 90 per cent casualties are in the low and mid-income countries due to “with high volumes of emissions from industry, transport and agriculture, as well as dirty cookstoves and fuels in homes.
- Of the 3.8 million deaths reported due to household air pollution, India accounts to 1.5 million deaths — that is 40 per cent of all such cases. Note that household air pollution can be caused due to polluting fuels that are used for cooking and use of unsafe technologies within homes.
- About 30 per cent of the global count of 4.2 million deaths caused due to ambient air pollution has been in India.
Call to Action: Housing sector
Pollution within the home is the neglected bit. What can you do to ensure that damages due to pollution is minimum at home? Here are some tips from the WHO:
Use thermal envelopes: A thermal envelope refers to a shell serving as a barrier to unwanted heat or mass transfer between the building interior and exterior. Improvements in household thermal envelopes can yield significant health gains.
Pay attention to heating systems: Nothing better than having energy-efficient homes. Climate-appropriate design principles for insulation, window placement and daylighting will enable good use of passive solar based home heating models. This curtails the risks related to other emissions that you might be using to heat your home.
It is advisable that you use stand-alone, portable heating systems that are properly sealed in order to avoid risks of fuel emissions.
Switch from coal, diesel or fuel oil combustion to natural gas or LPG, geothermal or electric heat-pump technology that cut down on adverse health impact.
Play it cool with air conditioners: Design principles that promote natural cooling must be adopted. For example, clustering buildings can promote shading. A building could also be oriented in a way that the wall facing direct sunlight could be minimised. Double walls or latticework, vegetation should be encouraged.
Not just these using quality building materials, encouraging natural ventilation and vegetation can lower the risk of indoor pollution.
Call to action: Authorities
What are authorities doing to address this concern in some of the most polluted cities in India? Here's a look:
The industrial hub of Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur’s air is worse than Delhi’s with the PM2.5 annual average touching 173 micrograms per cubic metre while Delhi’s was at 143 ug/m3. Given the volume of industries in the city, vehicle emissions, tanneries, coal used and burnt in these industries add to the menace of air pollution. An IIT Kanpur study also revealed that dust and soot together contribute to about 76 per cent of air pollution in Kanpur during winters. Unfortunately, there are no concrete steps that the authorities have taken so far besides identifying the cause and loss borne due to air pollution.
In the past, implementation of BS-VI norms, CNG/LPG for commercial vehicles, banning of 15-year-old private vehicles, particulate control systems in industry, domestic use of natural gas/LPG, converting unpaved roads to paved roads, mechanised sweeping and watering and a strict ban on open burning were some of the measures taken.
In Faridabad, the air quality has been very poor and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is looking into the matter. As of April 11, the real-time Air Quality Index in Faridabad is ‘moderate’ which is a relief for many but experts have recommended the use of air purifiers, pollutions masks and avoiding any physical exertion and outdoor activities especially by pregnant women, kids and senior citizens.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered quick removal of encroachments from green belts caused by industrialists and commercial unit owners which had resulted in pollution and the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad and HSVP has been mandated to enforce the decision.
Recently, the CPCB had also asked the municipal corporations of Gurgaon and Faridabad to submit a report on steps taken in the past one year to control air pollution in the two cities as per the NGT's 17-point action plan. Instructions included prevention of vehicle parking in non-designated areas, introduction of flexi/staggered work timings to minimise movement of vehicles during peak hours, decongestion of pathways, creation of green buffers along the traffic corridors, vacuum sweeping of road, installation of water fountains at major traffic intersections, taking stringent action against waste burning in the open, ensuring proper collection of waste, and controlling dust pollution at construction sites.
A growing number of patients complaining about respiratory problems is indication enough that Varanasi is choking. Traffic and vehicular pollution, construction are among top causes followed by the bad condition of roads.
Not just these cities, every Indian city is taking some steps to counter the pollution menace. However, given the volume of damage done, the result would be time taking. Numbeo estimates air pollution in Varanasi as ‘very high’ while the report by Climate Trends claims that the authorities have been concentrating on the beautification of the city, neglecting the problem of poor air quality throughout the year.