India’s national capital remains at the top when it comes to polluted cities in 2022, as per a report released by the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). Based on an analysis of air quality monitoring data, the national capital of Delhi ranked the most polluted in 2022, with an annual average PM 2.5 concentration of 99.71 ug/m3. However, Delhi’s PM 2.5 levels improved by over 7% compared to 2019. The analysis was released Tuesday to mark four years of the launch of the NCAP by the Centre.
After four years and Rs 6897.06 crore into the country’s flagship National Clean Air Programme (#NCAP), some of the top polluted non-attainment cities in 2019 have marginally improved their PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels but continue to breach the CPCB’s safe limits. The top 10 most polluted cities in 2022 for PM 2.5, besides Delhi, were Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Patna, Muzzafarpur, Noida, Meerut, Gobindgarh, Gaya, and Jodhpur. The top ten most polluted cities in 2022 based on PM 10 were Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Delhi, Noida, Patna, Meerut, Muzzafarpur, Durgapur, Jodhpur, and Aurangabad. These most polluted lists of 2022 are from the Indo-Gangetic Plain, demonstrating that real and long-term solutions lie in an airshed approach to address the need for better air pollution management in the region beyond Delhi.
The NCAP had set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 (ultra-fine particulate matter) by 20-30% in 2024 taking the pollution levels in 2017 as the base year to improve upon.
This is an interim target as the reduction needed to meet air quality standards in many cities is more than 30%.
The position of the cleanest city in India in 2022 was jointly held by Srinagar in Kashmir and Kohima in Nagaland. The NCAP tracker report further states, “Unlike the most polluted cities, most of the least polluted cities in 2019 saw air quality levels deteriorate and rankings slip. For instance, Mumbai was the seventh least polluted city in 2019 but its PM 2.5 levels increased from 34 ug/m3 in 2019 to 49 ug/m3 in 2022 and dropped to being the 23rd least polluted city in the country.’’
The Union government launched the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) on 10th January 2019 to address air pollution in 102 cities, to which 20 more cities were added later in the year. These 122 cities are referred to as nonattainment cities as they did not meet the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for the period of 2011-15 under the National Air Quality Monitoring Program (NAMP).