Environmental group Greenpeace India on Thursday said the Delhi government’s claim that air pollution levels have reduced by 25% over the past few years was false, reported PTI. The Aam Aadmi Party government claimed recently that PM2.5 levels in the city averaged 115 micrograms per cubic metre between 2016 and 2018, down from 154 micrograms per cubic metre between 2012 and 2014.
PM2.5, a key air pollutant, refers to particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns.
Greenpeace India said satellite data showed no statistically significant reduction in PM2.5 levels from 2013 to 2018. It said there was only a slight reduction in the latter part of 2018 compared to the past three years. Citing data from the Central Pollution Control Board, Greenpeace said PM10 levels actually increased in 2018 compared to what it was in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
“Historical ambient air quality monitoring and satellite data coupled with increasing fossil fuel consumption in Delhi and adjoining states contradict the government’s claims of a 25% reduction in pollution levels over past years,” said Greenpeace India.
The non-profit organisation added that coal consumption rose by 17.8% from 2015-’16 to 2018-’19 in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. “On the other hand, total petroleum product consumption increased by 3.3% over the same period, both contributing to increasing emissions and complicated clean air efforts,” Greenpeace India said.
The ruling Aam Aadmi Party, however, dismissed the report. Party spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said they were not concerned about the analysis. “The Centre in its affidavit to the Supreme Court has said it under oath that the pollution in Delhi has reduced and the pollution in October and November is due to stubble-burning,” he added.
Crop burning is considered one of the main reasons for the rising level of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region and other northern states at this time of the year, though it is exacerbated by firecrackers burst around Diwali. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday asked the Ministry of Agriculture to distribute equipment to farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on a priority basis to tackle stubble burning.
The Delhi government and the Ministry for Environment have taken multiple steps to improve the air quality in the national Capital. However, Greenpeace India said the steps were mostly taken in the second half of 2018 and thus had minimal effect. “These steps along with others will surely result in reduction of pollution levels on an annual average basis,” Greenpeace official Avinash Chanchal told PTI. “But the majority of impacts of such steps collectively was not seen till the end of 2018 and these wouldn’t be enough to provide breathable air quality.”
The overall air quality index in Delhi as of 8.30 am on Friday was recorded at 314, which falls in the “very poor” category, according to the government-run monitoring agency System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research, or SAFAR. The 24-hour average calculated by the Central Pollution Control Board was 352 as of 8 am.
An Air Quality Index between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51-100 is “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor” and 401-500 “severe”. A figure above 400 poses a risk to people with respiratory ailments and can affect even those with healthy lungs.