It’s not just Delhi that has been making headlines for poor air quality, but two more major Indian cities, Kolkata and Mumbai, have joined the alarming trend. The air quality index (AQI) in Kolkata on Wednesday surged to 192 while Mumbai’s air quality fell under the poor category with an AQI of 112. On November 15, Delhi remained the most polluted city with air quality falling into hazardous categories in various parts of the city. This development is indeed concerning for the nation as a whole, as major urban areas grapple with the escalating issue of air pollution.
Air pollution has become a critical concern affecting densely populated urban areas globally. Within India, major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai are now finding themselves on the list of the most polluted cities worldwide. The AQI, a measure of air quality, is becoming increasingly problematic, prompting the need for stringent measures and practices to combat pollution.
In Northern India, the months from October to December demand strict precautions and mandatory practices to save oneself from the hazardous impact of air pollution. Wearing masks and adhering to pollution control protocols is critical for health.
However, the recurring question remains: Why does the nation face these consequences every year?
Delhi, the capital city of India, takes the lead in terms of air pollution. The city grapples with exceptionally high vehicular emissions, regular industrial activities, and the additional burden of crop residue burning in neighbouring states, all contributing to the alarming levels of air pollution.
According to Ludhiana-based Punjab Remote Sensing Centre Data released in November, Punjab reported over 2,000 farm fires despite severe air quality indices in Delhi and neighbouring states. The total number of such cases till Monday were 19,463 in Punjab alone.
On November 7, the Supreme Court of India also raised its concern over the stubble burning in Punjab, and its effect on the air quality of the neighbouring states. “We don’t know how you do it, it’s your job. But it must be stopped. Something has to be done immediately,” the Apex Court told the Punjab government.
Days after Diwali, the Delhi-NCR region saw the AQI levels falling under severe-hazardous category, post Diwali. Several places in Delhi like Anand Vihar, had an AQI of 552, and many other parts of the city had AQI ranging from 300-400.
Turning our attention to Kolkata, recent data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) indicates a significant rise in AQI.While, Delhi and Mumbai, have been making headlines for a rise in poor air quality, Kolkata grabbing the second spot in the most polluted cities list, was a rude shock.
According to the CPCB, ultrafine particulate matter that can enter our bloodstream and have an impact on our health, has increased by an alarming rate of 85%.
Between November 5 and November 10, the air quality in Kolkata deteriorated from “moderate” to “poor.” Domestic activities, construction, and vehicle exhaust are identified as the primary causes of air pollution in the city, according to the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB).
As per data from IQAir, PM2.5 concentration in Kolkata is currently 6.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value.
Lastly, Mumbai has witnessed a layer of haze covering its skies in recent days. According to the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the AQI in Chembur was recorded at 334, this week, pushing the area into the ‘poor’ AQI category. The Worli area, too, experienced an AQI of 134, reflecting the growing air quality concerns in Mumbai.
As Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai grapple with deteriorating air quality, it is evident that India is facing a severe challenge in curbing air pollution. Urgent and comprehensive measures are needed to address the root causes, including vehicular emissions, industrial activities, and agricultural practices. The collective effort of citizens, policymakers, and environmental agencies is crucial in ensuring that these cities regain their clean air and contribute to a healthier and sustainable future for the nation.