choking cities

Not just Delhi: These six Indian cities have an air pollution problem worse than Beijing

Many northern cities including Agra, Patna and Lucknow continue to show alarmingly high air-pollutant levels.

Each year, almost six lakh Indias die prematurely due to air pollution, which is the fifth leading cause of death in the country. Of these, almost 35,000 deaths occur in the national capital. Even as Delhi government has sprung into action on January 1 to improve the air quality by regulating the number of cars of the streets, other Indian cities are breathing equally foul air, government data shows.

The National Air Quality Index network was announced last year by the government as an official reporting standard for air pollution levels that would allow for comparisons across cities. The data from government’s monitors in cities such as Patna, Raipur, Agra and Varanasi reveals that pollution levels are off the charts in many cities and that in the absence of strong measures, the problem isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

“Even the government’s own, largely inadequate NAQI data reveals that 23 of the 32 stations across India are showing more than 70% exceedance of the national standards,” said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner,Greenpeace India. “The pollution levels in a few Indian cities have the embarrassing distinction of having exceeded the toxic levels of Beijing and other Chinese cities, demonstrating levels at least ten times higher than the WHO standards, making air pollution truly a national emergency.”

Source: Greenpeace India.
Source: Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace India analysed the data provided by the NAQI portal and concluded that control strategies needs to move beyond just Delhi because air pollution seems to be a regional problem rather than just local one. The organisation said that steps are needed at national level to reduce the levels of particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10.

While Delhi was found to have pollution levels 12 times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines, another six cities – Lucknow, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Agra and Varanasi – had pollution levels at least ten times as higher than permissible under these standards.

For instance, on November 29 last year, Patna’s air had 108 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter as compared to Delhi’s 78 micrograms per cubic meter. Beijing, meanwhile, had 81 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air.

Greenpeace also compared the levels of pollution in Indian cities to Beijing’s red-alert standard and estimated how many days the cities would be shut if they were following China’s standards of issuing alerts in times of severe air pollution. It turned out that in a 91-day period between September and November, Delhi met the Chinese criteria for 33 days while Lucknow met it for 40 days.

Source: Greenpeace India
Source: Greenpeace India

“The Government’s own data suggests that the air quality in several north Indian cities is worse than the air in Beijing, and yet we remain tentative in recognising this ‘airpocalypse’ as a pollution disaster,” Dahiya said in a press statement.

Shot in the dark

In 2014, the World Health Organisation released a list of world’s 20 most polluted cities, 13 of which were in India. Earlier, the Global Burden of Disease report had estimated air pollution to be the fifth deadliest killer in the country.

“Indian cities are witnessing a rapid increase in air pollution and untamed motorisation,” wrote Anumita Roychowdhury, head of the clean air programme at the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “Indian cities are witnessing a rapid increase in air pollution and untamed motorisation. Cities need to curb pollution from all sources, but vehicles need special attention as they emit toxic fumes within our breathing zone.”

Even as Indian cities remain exposed to critically high levels of toxic substances in their air, the absence of comprehensive data collection makes things worse.

“The data collection is not standardised. They are not necessarily measuring the same parameters,” said Bhargav Krishna from Public Health Foundation of India. “For instance, many of the CPCB [Central Pollution Control Board] and other monitors don’t measure PM 2.5 at all and even the measurement of PM 2.5 across different monitors is taken at different points of time. So you can't really do a retrospective analysis on these levels because they weren't measured at all."

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Eleven ways Indian college life teaches you not to waste anything

College, they say, prepares you for life. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

Our quintessentially Indian ability to make the most of every resource has weathered us through many a storm in life. But this talent, as it were, is developed and honed to a fine art only in college. Frugality is a prominent feature of college life—more by circumstances than by choice and perhaps the most important skill we learn is nearly 100% efficiency when it comes to making the most of resources or opportunities. This “no wastage” policy is learned through many ways in college.

Academics
When it comes to studying, the art of “no wastage” is refined in college.

1. Exam papers. We’ve all been there before: you’re in the flow and trying to pen answers quickly in your answer sheet but you’re running out of space. What do you do? Fill up your existing one, of course. Write in tiny handwriting and occupy every bit of space without wasting the margin either. A great example of how college teaches you to waste nothing.

2. Photocopier bulk deals. In college, after you convince a kind-hearted classmate to let you copy their notes, you negotiate a bulk rate discount with the photocopier uncle and share the wealth with your classmates. It saves you time, money and the collective shame of failing together.

3. Stationery. Pencils are worn till they reach a stub. Broken rulers are used as long as you can still draw a straight line on them. Pens are borrowed and reused until their ink is sucked dry. Stationary is rarely wasted in the life of a college goer.

Food
Food occupies a special part of a college goer’s life and there is only one rule when it comes to food: don’t waste any.

4. Thalis. College kids are always hungry, and there are few options that provide better value for money than thalis. Thalis come in all sorts—the Gujarati kind on copper plates, the south Indian variety on palm leaves, or even the Punjabi “mini thali” found in restaurants all over the country. No matter what form they take, no food goes waste.

5. Shaadis. Speaking of food, you never say no to a wedding invitation when you’re in college. An invitation missed is a buffet meal wasted. The only price is to put on a half-decent looking dress or a pant and shirt that have been pressed. Then enter the hall, say your hi-hellos, and onto the food. No opportunity to attend shaadis is wasted during college, and rightly so.

6. 50p toffees. Those were heady times when things had the decency to cost nine rupees fifty paise instead of a full ten. The remaining 50 paise left over as change would not go waste either, and would return more often than not in the form of a chewy toffee or mint.

7. One-by-two coffee. Because coffee shared is friendship enhanced. In college, a full cup of canteen coffee was always cheaper than two half cups, and nearly impossible to finish owing to its milky sweetness. Converting it into a one-by-two courtesy an extra white styrofoam cup ensured that neither the extra coffee went to waste, nor a chance to make a friend happy.

Travel
Space is to be shared, not hogged. Every seat in college be it on the bench or a bike or a rickshaw would be occupied till its last inch.

8. Triple seat scooter rides. College-goers of a certain vintage remember that scooters were made to accommodate more people than cars. One person riding, another in the back, and at least one if not two people sandwiched between them. While this ensures no wastage of space, it’s not to be tried by the faint-hearted.

9. Share autos. The cheapest way to travel, of course. Share autos are a lifeline for college goers. Load up your friends in an auto, share the fare, and end up with more money in your wallet.

10. RAC tickets. Among the great innovations of the Indian Railways is the RAC or Reservation Against Cancellation ticket, which ensures that travelers can travel on the train even if they do not get a full berth to themselves. More often than not, two travelers split a seat. A boon to college students who don’t mind roughing it a little to get to their destination on time.

Freebies
College teaches you many things. The ability to not waste freebies is prominent on the list.

11. Buy one, get one free. The five little words that every college student wants to hear. Be it movie tickets, rock concert tickets, clothes, books or meals, a “one-on-one free” offer would always be utilized even if you didn’t need what the offer was selling. An unwritten if long-standing rule in college.

The fine art of “no wastage” is learned painstaking through college. But it’s good to know that you can enjoy “no wastage” after you’ve left too. Airtel’s MyPlan ensures that customers make the most of their mobile expenditure and waste nothing. Airtel’s MyPlan allows you to pick data, local, SMS, STD and roaming according to your needs. You also have the flexibility of changing your plan whenever you want and can optimize your phone bills to save up to 30%. Not just that, under the plan, you can also share the benefits with their family. For more information, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Airtel by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.

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