'Data old, air much better now': UP counters WHO over most polluted tag

Commuters make their way amidst the heavy smog in New Delhi
A day after World Health Organisation (WHO) report put four Uttar Pradesh towns among the most polluted cities in the world, UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) was in denial mode claiming the ground situation was much better now.

According to UPPCB, the WHO report pertained to the data collected in 2016 and during the past two years, several steps, both preventive and regulatory, had been successfully resorted to for improving air quality and curb pollutants.

On condition of anonymity, a senior UPPCB official told Business Standard that the Board had in February 2018 conducted a comprehensive workshop of all the stakeholders, including government departments for improving the quality of air in the state.

“There are 17 government departments, which have stake in improving air quality, including traffic, Regional Transport Office (RTO), agriculture, urban local bodies etc. The UPPCB alone cannot control air pollution, but it can function as the nodal agency and regulate the joint working of these departments for cleaner and healthier air,” she added.

According to WHO global air pollution database released in Geneva, 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM (particulate matter) 2.5 concentration pertained to India. The industrial town of Kanpur adjusted worst with PM 2.5 concentration of 173 micrograms per cubic metre, followed by Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya and Patna. The other UP cities on the list are Lucknow and Agra at 7th and 8th places respectively.

Meanwhile, the UPPCB official informed that the Board would respond to any fresh directives received in this regard from the government or the Central PCB (CPCB), which is mandated to deal with multilateral agencies and take corrective measures.

Another UPPCB official said the UPPCB had already been working on its long-term roadmap as prepared by CPCB, independent of the WHO report and study.

“Almost 70% of the air pollution is caused by vehicular pollution, which is beyond the purview of UPPCB. Besides, there are other factors that lead to dust particles floating in the air, including depleting green cover, open drains, building activities etc,” he noted.

He further said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in July 2017 in its voluminous 543-page report had laid out elaborate guidelines for curbing pollutants, including at Kanpur and suggested shifting of tanneries from river Ganga basins, regulating urban sewerage etc.

Indian cities that clocked high PM 2.5 pollutants are Delhi, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur, followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and some Chinese and Mongolian towns. Mumbai is the world’s 4th most polluted metropolis. The WHO study considered PM 2.5 (particulate matter of diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) and PM 10. PM 2.5 is more dangerous. The period considered for the WHO study was 2010 to 2016.