Hyderabad: A fresh analysis of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data by Greenpeace India has revealed a large scale reduction in air pollutant concentration during the lockdown period in major south Indian cities including Hyderabad.
Levels of two major air pollutants, PM2.5 and NO2, have reduced significantly in Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore, comparative data analysis of April 2020 with the same month last year has revealed.
According to the analysis, the average concentration of PM2.5 has reduced by 18.35% and NO2 by 63.99% compared to last year in Hyderabad. Similarly, in Bangalore, the average concentration of PM2.5 has reduced by 51.57% and NO2 by 64.02%.
According to Greenpeace’s analysis, in Hyderabad and Bangalore, the NO2 concentration has reduced by more than half. NO2 is the main source of nitrate aerosols, which form an important fraction of PM2.5.
The major sources of anthropogenic emissions of NO2 are combustion processes such as power generation, vehicles, and industrial activities. Nitrogen dioxide has many harmful effects on the lungs.
Whereas in Chennai, the average concentration of PM2.5 has reduced by 55.56%, and the concentration of NO2 by 23.86% compared to last year.
“In Hyderabad, transport, Industries, construction, open burning, and meteorological factors are the main sources for PM2.5. In April, if PM 2.5 has not significantly gone down that can either be attributed to meteorological factors or one has to say construction works were still going on in some degrees, however there isn’t any specific study,” Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace India, Avinash Chanchal told NewsMeter,
According to Chanchal, at the beginning of Lockdown 4.0, Hyderabad witnessed an increase in PM 2.5 level. However, the rate has again begun to come down.
“At the pollution level tracking station in Hyderabad Central University in Gachibowli, we have seen a spike in air pollution from May 18, the date when Lockdown 4 began with certain sets of relaxations," he said.
From May 23, it was 35.32, on 24th it was 32.02, 25th 29.18, so it's going down. On May 28, PM 2.5 was 23. On May 1, it was 16. So maybe it's due to meteorological factors such as rain and thunderstorm storms.
"However, the No2 data on May 1 was 26 and then it went up on May 22. But again NO2 is also coming down. On May 27, it was 19.65 and on May 28 it was 16.2. So if we take an average of PM2.5 in Hyderabad, it's safe under national air quality standards, but higher than the World Health Organization standard of 25,” Chanchal said.
NO2 is linked to roughly 350,000 new cases of asthma in children
“According to the ‘Toxic air: The Price of Fossil Fuels’ report, NO2 is linked to roughly 350,000 new cases of asthma in children each year with approximately 1,285,000 children in India living with asthma due to exposure to NO2 pollution from fossil fuels” revealed the Greenpeace analysis.
It is also noteworthy that PM 2.5 is causing serious health risks like cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer. Another report, 'Toxic air: The Price of Fossil Fuels’ revealed that “air pollution due to fossil fuel-related PM2.5 is attributed to an estimated 669,000 premature deaths each year in India.”
Exposure to PM2.5 leads to an increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate
The latest research at the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that long term exposure to PM2.5 leads to an increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate. The study underscores the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis. However, the study is based on the data collected only in the United States.
In March, a collective of doctors working on health impacts of air pollution, 'The Doctors For Clean Air (DFCA)’ has also warned that people living in regions with high levels of air pollution and with compromised lung function could be more vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus.
Greenpeace report said though there is a reduction in air pollution levels across the cities because of the temporary slowdown of economic activities, it should not be seen as a long term solution. Tackling one crisis can’t be done at the expense of another. People all over the world are suffering and facing severe hardship because of the COVID19 crisis.
“It is high time that all non-attainment cities are included under the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) immediately and its strict implementation is ensured to address long-term air pollution problems. We can only use the COVID-19 outbreak as a lesson to mankind and once we pass the crisis, the country needs a coordinated and consistent action plan to address major sources of pollution,” Chanchal said.
Air pollution is a public health crisis as well as a threat to our economies. Every year, air pollution takes millions of lives, increases our risk of stroke, lung cancer, asthma, and hugely affects our economy.
Therefore strict implementation and inclusion of all non-attainment cities under the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) are crucial to address long-term air pollution problems.