By SOUMIK DUTTA
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board KSPCB states that the biggest cause of PM2.5 is the ongoing construction
BENGALURU, Aug 1 (The CONNECT) – The average pollution levels in ten major South Indian cities far exceed the latest World Health Organization (WHO) standards, a study shows.
A report by Greenpeace India analysing the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s data between November, 2020 and November, 2021 is a much-needed reminder that air pollution is a public health crisis that is not confined to cities only in north India.
Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Mangalore and Amaravati saw annual PM2.5 (atmospheric particulate matter that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) levels exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of 5 µg/m3 by six to seven times.
Air pollution data from ten cities – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Amravati, Vishakhapatnam, Kochi, Mangalore, Puducherry, Coimbatore and Mysore – was selected and analysed based on the availability of data, population and monitoring station networks.
The report found that despite pandemic-induced lockdowns and subsequent reduction in economic activities, the annual average values of PM2.5 and PM10 (particulate matter in the air with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less) exceeded WHO’s revised standards by many folds.
While annual PM10 levels in Bengaluru exceeded the prescribed WHO standards of 15 µg/m3 by three to four times. The primary contributors to worsening the air quality are fossil fuel powered infrastructural development, industries, transport, waste burning and construction activity, the report stated.
Chronic exposure to air pollution increases the likelihood of asthma, low birth weight, depression, schizophrenia, diabetes, stroke, lung cancer and can cause premature deaths.
In Bengaluru, there are 10 monitoring stations located by CPCB and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), five in the commercial sectors of BTM layout, Bapuji Nagar, Hombegowda Nagar, Jayanagar 5th block and Saneguruvanahalli, and another five in the industrial sectors of Hebbal, Silk Board, Peenya and BWSSB Kadubeesanahalli.
The annual average values of PM2.5 and PM10 shows that at all the locations, the values are higher than WHO revised standards.
“We have to prioritize the immediate shift to clean energy and clean transport to stop more damage. If we look at Bengaluru’s PM10 data, the annual average in most stations is exceeding not only WHO guidelines, but NAAQS levels too”, informed Avinash Chanchal, Campaign Manager, Greenpeace India.
“The pollution control boards must realise that no level of air pollution is safe and even the long-term exposure of lower levels of concentrations of air pollution can severely impact human health”, he added.
CPCB must revise the current national ambient air quality standards for all pollutants based on WHO’s proposed interim target and gradually achieve the revised standards, the report stated
PM2.5 concentration in Bengaluru is currently 6.1 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
Analyzing air quality data from the Berkeley Earth Project, Bangalore’s air quality worsened by 3% in 2021 compared to 2020. This leaves Bangalore with air pollution levels 6 times higher than the World Health Organization’s annual limit.
The data shows that 2021 Bangalore air quality was worse across the whole year, except briefly in the summer.
Analyzing the air quality data for the previous five years suggests that Bangalore’s pollution levels start peaking in winter, with PM2.5 typically rising in October, and it remains high until March of the next year.
Despite being better than Delhi and Kolkata, Bangalore’s PM2.5 exceeds the World Health Organization’s annual limit every month of the year — even in the cleanest month.
According to the Greenpeace report, particulate matter (PM) 2.5 had claimed 12,000 lives in Bengaluru alone in 2020. In Delhi, 54,000 lives were lost in the same year. This was revealed by the Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of IQAir data from a live cost estimator.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) stated that the biggest cause of PM2.5 is the ongoing construction activities. Despite Rs 279 crore being given to BBMP by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Ecology under the National Clean Air Mission to mitigate air pollution, little can be seen on ground.
The KSPCB also gave Rs 2.2 crore to BBMP, additionally for procurement of air sprinklers, but the sprinklers are mostly underutilized in Bengaluru.