Not just Delhi, a bunch of central Indian cities too suffer worse air quality. But, is anyone listening?

Air quality plummets to dangerous levels in central Indian cities, a CSE analysis finds

Polluted air that poses huge risks are often associated with the northern Indian cities. But it may not be just these cities that have a problem of bad quality air. The issue is that not much is written on the air quality and pollution hassles that the central Indian cities suffer.

If one goes by the recent analysis that have been made public by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based renowned non-profit, it becomes clear and, indeed shocking, that a clutch of central Indian cities are at the risk of fall outs that could come about due to the worst quality of air above them.

Winter pollution levels in cities such as Gwalior and Singrauli are at par with what is normally reported in the Indo-Gangetic Plains of northern India. The fact that the central India cities too have a humongous pollution problem is yet to be accorded national attention, though. The CSE analysis has pointed out that the winter air quality of Gwalior and Singrauli is as bad as that of cities in the National Capital Region and Uttar Pradesh. This revelation needs to be an eye opener to the powers that be, rather than looking at and doing things only for the top industrial towns and cities of northern India.

Central Indian states of MP, Chhattisgarh suffer

Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have always been in ten news for other factors, but everyone seems to have ignored the growing risks that the air in the cities that are part of these states pose. The analysis, which covered 18 continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations across 17 cities in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, conducted studies in two stations in Gwalior and one station each in Bhopal, Damoh, Dewas, Indore, Jabalpur, Katni, Maihar, Mandideep, Pithampur, Ratlam, Sagar, Satna, Singrauli, Ujjain, Bhilai and Bilaspur. CSE has reported that its analysis was an assessment of annual and seasonal trends in PM2.5 concentrations for the period January 1, 2019 to December 12, 2021.

The revelations are a matter of concern. The air quality in the Madhya Pradesh town of Singrauli was found to be 81 microgram per cubic metre (μg / m3) as per 2021 figures. Gwalior and Katni followed close behind with figures of 56 μg / m3 and 54 μg / m3 respectively. What needs to be noted is that for three months of 2021, Singrauli reported very poor air quality days, and the poor conditions were at par with that of Delhi.

Further, a clutch of Madhya Pradesh cities had poor or worse air quality, and in year 2021 Bhopal reported such alarming conditions for 38 days, while Indore had poor to worse air quality for 36 days, Gwalior 72 days, Jabalpur 49 days and Ujjain 30 days.

Diwali night air turns riskier

Looking at the main reasons, it comes to light that bad to worse air quality in these cities can be attributed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere. Indore was at alarming high in this regard. Vehicular traffic and Diwali celebrations contributed so much to the worsening of air quality in these regions, with nitrogen dioxide presence in the air shooting up between 6 PM and 8 PM, the evening rush hour. The Diwali night of the year also saw pollution levels skyrocketing between 8 PM to 8 AM in these cities. When it came to Diwali night worsening of the air, Bhopal was on top and Ujjain close behind.

Worsening of air quality could mean catastrophe in terms of illnesses and difficulty in carrying on with regular life. While only Delhi and other northern Indian cities capture national attention, these smaller cities and towns are often ignored. It remains to be seen whether the CSE analysis and subsequent revelations would prove to be an eye opener to the government machinery and authorities concerned. Let’s hope for some action on this front.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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