Home » 97.6% in Maharashtra exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution: Report | Mumbai news

97.6% in Maharashtra exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution: Report | Mumbai news

97.6% in Maharashtra exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution: Report | Mumbai news

Mumbai:

Mumbai In a recently published paper by the World Bank Group, Maharashtra has ranked third in the list of most populated sub-national regions globally, with 97.6% of its population exposed to either hazardous or unsafe levels of air pollution, specifically PM2.5 aerosols.

The paper — ‘Air Pollution and Poverty: PM2.5 Exposure in 211 Countries and Territories’, used remote sensing data for aerosol concentration, population numbers from the WorldPop Global High Resolution Population data set (WPGP) and a chemical transport model to ascertain the movement of PM2.5 pollutants.

These results were not surprising to experts, who pointed out that Maharashtra, given its size and economy, has for long been one of the worst-affected states due to air pollution.

“Maharashtra has the highest number of non-attainment cities in the country as per the National Clean Air Program (NCAP), at 25. These are all rapidly expanding urban centres which are struggling to curb emissions at source, whether due to vehicles, construction and development works, poor waste management, or industries. These cities are regularly recording daily PM2.5 averages in excess of 35ug/m3,” said Sachin Panwar, an independent air quality scientist certified by the Quality Council of India under the union environment ministry.

VM Motghare, joint director (air quality) at the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday despite efforts.

A sub-regional officer with the MPCB, seeking anonymity, said, “We have known for a long time that interior Maharashtra is more affected by air pollution because it is industrialising and expanding at a very rapid pace. Also, the winter is much more pronounced in Madhya (central) Maharashtra and Vidarbha, and this makes a big difference in exposure as compared to the Konkan districts, where the coastal effect mitigates exposure. We are planning to install 47 new air quality monitors across the state in the next few weeks, to give us a better idea of where the problem areas are.”

Maharashtra has been allotted a total corpus of 2,981 crore, at the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission, specifically to address air pollution in the state. The funds are to be utilised by the end of the financial year 2026.

Of the 2773 crore which the state government plans to spend by the end of FY2025, a clean 80% (or 2218 crore) is proposed to be spent on the EV Policy, primarily on electrifying bus fleets in major urban clusters. The balance 555 crore are to be spent on local interventions, such as increasing Maharashtra’s air quality monitoring network (3%), implementing dust control measures (8%), and regulating construction (4%), industries (2%), bakeries and crematoria (3%).

Avikal Somvanshi, senior programme manager of the Urban Lab at the Centre for Science and Environment in Delhi, said, “The narrative around air pollution in India typically involves north India, but the air in Maharashtra and other parts of the country, like Bihar, can also pose huge health risks. In Maharashtra and Bihar specifically, the problem is a lack of monitoring stations. Most of Maharashtra’s are confined to Mumbai, and many of those have also been installed in the last two years. In Bihar, additional stations have come up only toward the end of last year. Remote sensing data has some limitations, so as we gather more data from the ground, we will be able to see that this problem is no longer limited to Delhi.”

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SN Tripathi, an atmospheric scientist and professor of civil engineering at IIT-Kanpur, who reviewed the WBG paper at HT’s request, also pointed out this limitation. “They have considered the WHO safe limits and not the standards of respective countries. The Institute for Advanced Study has brought out a working paper arguing that safe limits for air pollution should be an outcome of local geographic and environmental conditions, as well as people’s response to this exposure. Applying a single yardstick may be a bit far fetched. The only way to do it correctly is to have our own studies. If the Indian standards are applied, the paper would show a different picture. However, there is no denial that our cities are not meeting even their own standards, which is about 60ug/m3.”

Tripathi also said that it is not surprising for Maharashtra to feature at the top of the list of states. “As part of a study on use of low cost sensors to monitor air quality in Maharashtra, I have noticed that in the winter, several cities are highly polluted, and regularly cross the 60ug/m3 for a large part of the day, sometimes even several days at a stretch. Being a progressive state, Maharashtra needs to increase their effort to combat this and set a model for others,” he said.

Hindustan Times had reported in September last year that exposure to PM2.5 is reducing the average citizen’s lifespan by a total of four years in Maharashtra and 3.7 years in Mumbai, according to the updated Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) published by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC).

In Pune, exposure to PM2.5 is reducing life expectancy by 4.2 years on an average. Gondia and Bhandara districts in Vidarbha were found to be the most polluted with life expectancy reducing by 5.1 and five years, respectively.

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