1. Byrnihat in Meghalaya was identified as India’s most polluted city in 2023, as per a report by CREA.
2. The study covered 227 cities, including 85 under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launched in 2019.
3. Delhi, renowned for persistent air pollution, surprisingly ranked eighth in the list.
Shillong, Jan 11: In 2023, Byrnihat in Meghalaya emerged as the most polluted city in India, according to a report released by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
The study encompassed 227 cities, with 85 falling under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), a government initiative initiated in 2019. Surprisingly, Delhi, known for its perennially high air pollution levels, ranked eighth on the list.
The data revealed that Byrnihat, covered under NCAP, recorded the highest annual average PM10 concentration at 301 microgrammes per cubic metre. Begusarai in Bihar secured the second position with an average annual PM10 level of 265 microgrammes per cubic metre, closely followed by Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh at 228 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Delhi’s eighth position in the ranking was a notable deviation from its notorious reputation for severe winter air pollution. The report shed light on the inefficiencies in the implementation of the NCAP, as only 44 out of the 131 non-attainment cities had concluded source apportionment studies after five years of its initiation.
Sunil Dahia, CREA’s South Asia analyst, highlighted that 78 out of the 85 NCAP cities exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM10 levels (60 microgrammes per cubic metre).
The NCAP aims for a 20-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024 in cities that hadn’t met prescribed air quality standards from 2011 to 2015. The government has now set a new target of achieving a 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration in these cities by 2026.
Despite the focus on pollution control, the report revealed that 64% of funds allocated under NCAP were utilized for dust mitigation and ineffective solutions like smog guns due to the absence of source apportionment studies. Only 37 NCAP-covered cities achieved PM10 levels below the annual targets set by the program.
Moreover, the report brought attention to the fact that in 2023, 118 cities not covered by NCAP breached the national air ambient quality standards for PM10, challenging the notion that cities outside the program are necessarily cleaner.
The top 10 polluted cities exhibited PM10 concentrations 3-5 times higher than Indian NAAQS and surpassed WHO limits by 13-20 times, underscoring the critical need for effective air quality management measures across the country.