The country’s National Clean Air Programme has started bearing fruits. Mitigations around air pollution have seen a positive response, with a new study showing a significant decline in air pollution level in various parts of the country. One of the key highlights of the study is that the air pollution levels were uniform in both rural and urban settings, which shows that particulate matter doesn’t have boundaries.
In the study ‘Status of urban and rural air quality exposure at national scale: A comparative analysis’ assessed the overall air quality improvement in all the states and major metropolitan cities. The study, conducted by Climate Trends, assessed satellite data available with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and the Central Pollution Pollution Board (CPCB)-owned ground monitors from 2017 to 2022.
Climate Trends, is a research-based consulting and capacity building initiative that aims to bring greater focus on issues of environment, climate change and sustainable development.
The study was done by assessing overall AQI in major cities of India using satellite data available with IIT Delhi and the Central Pollution Pollution Board (CPCB)-owned ground monitors from 2017 to 2022.
According to the data published in the study, PM 2.5 across the rural and urban regions have stabilised over the last six years and is showing a steady decline.
Air pollution refers to the presence of harmful substances and pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere. It occurs when pollutants, such as chemicals, particles, or gases, are released into the air and accumulate to levels that can be detrimental to human health, the environment, and ecosystems. PM2.5 particles, which are extremely small and can penetrate deep into the respiratory system, is a type of air pollutant consisting of tiny particles suspended in the air. These particles can be solid or liquid and come from various sources such as vehicle emissions, industrial processes, construction activities, and natural sources like dust and wildfires.
Decline In Air Pollution Levels In Rural And Urban Areas
According to CPCB’s national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), the annual average safe limit for PM 2.5 is 40 ug/m3 and for PM10 it is 60 ug/m3. However, the World Health Organisation’s revised guidelines for PM 2.5 and PM 10 are 5 ug/m3 and 15 ug/m3, respectively.
While the problem has garnered more attention in the urban cities, the report revealed that air pollution continues to be a significant problem affecting both rural and urban populations. The study has highlighted the importance to have a more broader view while analysing air pollution in India, and it not be concentrated only to the urban pockets.
“Efforts to mitigate air pollution should encompass a more comprehensive approach that addresses pollution sources in both rural and urban settings. Managing the air quality of entire airsheds should be the preferred policy route,” the study says.
As per the Climate Trends study, Mahasrashtra has been declared as the worst performing state with a dip of 7.7% in its urban PM2.5 levels, and a decrease of 8.2% in rural PM2.5 levels.
While the state of Uttar Pradesh was the best-performing state, with a reduction of 37.8% and 38.1% in urban and rural PM 2.5 levels, respectively.
Tamil Nadu on the other hand saw a decline in air pollution in both its urban and rural belt. The results show a 22% drop in PM2.5 levels in Tamil Nadu compared to 2017. In 2022 the PM2.5 level was 32.9 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre), while in Chennai, it is currently around 29 ug/m3. In 2017, the state’s annual average was 43 ug/m3.