India’s capital is choking under off-the-charts smog, with some parts of the city reporting levels almost five times those considered “unhealthy” by the US environmental protection agency. An emergency ruling issued in November 2016 saw more than 5,000 schools closed and construction work halted for three days. Officials warned that the number of vehicles allowed on the streets may be restricted if the situation does not improve.
Taking stock of the air pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring states, the Supreme Court appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) in January 2017 asked authorities to immediately enforce the graded response action under “very poor” category for Delhi and “moderate poor” for NCR.
It’s not just about Delhi. None of the 168 Indian cities monitored comply with the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, Greenpeace confirmed in Jan 2017. The major reason of unbreathable air is fossil fuel, a study revealed. Delhi is followed closely by Ghaziabad, Allahabad and Bareily in Uttar Pradesh; Faridabad in Haryana; Jharia in Jharkhand; Alwar in Rajasthan; Ranchi, Kusunda and Bastacola in Jharkhand; Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh; and Patna in Bihar, with PM10 levels ranging from 258 to 200 units.
It adds that even though pollution levels are increasing across the country, the emphasis so far has been on Delhi, while the pollution levels in other states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are also increasing.
Calling for a comprehensive policy to tackle air pollution by shifting to clean technologies at a war-footing level, the study says that the country is yet to come to the understanding that air pollution is a national problem.