Monitoring gaps in air quality across Indian cities emerge

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Significant gaps in India’s National Clean Air Programme uncovered. (Photo credit: Pixabay)

A recent analysis by the independent research organisation Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) has uncovered significant gaps in India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The study found that one in five cities enrolled in the programme lacks a continuous ambient air quality monitoring station (CAAQMS).

Delhi, in particular, emerged as the most polluted city in January, consistently exceeding the daily National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) with a monthly average PM2.5 concentration of 206 micrograms per cubic meter.

The permissible daily average limits for PM2.5 and PM10 are 60 and 100 micrograms per cubic meter, respectively. Among the top 10 polluted cities in January, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh each had representation.

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According to CREA’s analysis, only 101 out of the 131 cities covered by NCAP had a CAAQMS installed as of January 2024. This leaves 30 cities without transparent, real-time information on pollution levels. Cities without CAAQMS include Ranchi, Jammu, Guntur, Nellore, Vadodara, Madurai and Raebareli.

Initiated in 2019, NCAP aims for a 20-30 per cent reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024 in cities that did not meet air quality standards from 2011 to 2015. The government has now set a more ambitious target of achieving a 40 per cent reduction in particulate matter concentration in these cities by 2026.

Analyst Sunil Dahiya from CREA explained that stable atmospheric conditions, influenced by low wind speed and cooler temperatures in northern India, contributed to the accumulation of pollutants near the ground. While natural factors play a role, Dahiya emphasised that baseline emissions are the key contributors to escalating air pollution levels in any region.

(with agency inputs)

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