Urgent Need to Track Air Pollution Levels & Develop Policies for Rural Regions: Report
In a comparative analysis aimed at exploring the air pollution levels in rural areas and the urban areas, it is found that there is little difference in concentration levels of air pollutants in the two brackets. The report highlighted that the reliance on solid fuels for domestic use is a major factor behind the high pollution levels in the rural hinterland.
गाँव कनेक्शन 6 July 2023 1:02 PM GMT
As opposed to the popular notion of our country’s rural areas being better off than their urban counterparts in terms of air quality, a recent report has found that there is little difference in their air pollution levels.
“Air pollution is a transboundary problem that knows no borders. There is an urgent need to track pollution levels and develop policies for rural regions, as there is little difference in concentration levels between urban and rural areas,” an analysis report titled Status of Urban and Rural air quality exposure at nation scale: A comparative analysis, published on June 15 by Climate Trends — a Delhi-based research-based consulting and capacity building initiative, stated.
The report which cited satellite data sourced from Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi, noted that the particulate matter 2.5 [PM 2.5], was recorded as 57.4 ug/m3 [micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meter air] in the rural areas while it was 57.6 ug/m3 in the urban areas.
Five years later, in 2022, the PM 2.5 levels were found to be 46.4 ug/m3 in the rural areas and 46.8 ug/m3 in the urban areas.
“So while the National Clean Air Programme is focused on cities, it is evident that air pollution is not limited to geographical boundaries,” the report highlighted.
“High PM2.5 in rural areas is not surprising as a large fraction of the population still relies on solid fuel for domestic use (cooking, heating, and lighting) Household sources are found to be the largest contributor to ambient PM2.5 in India,” it added.
“The analysis also shows that the urban and rural levels have largely been neck to neck across states and regions, which is surprising,” S N Tripathi, professor of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur & Steering Committee Member of the National Clean Air Programme, was quoted in the report.
It is found that other than 2021, when annual average PM 2.5 levels escalated in comparison to those in 2020, which would be attributed to the lifting of restrictions post the COVID-19 led lockdown, PM2.5 levels have persistently reduced year-on-year from 2017 till 2022.
“However, the NCAP aims to reduce 20-30% of particulate matter levels by 2024, taking levels in 2017 as a base year. This annual average reduction is 19.1% in rural and 18.7% in urban India,” the report mentioned.
‘99.9% people breathe unhealthy air in India’
The analysis claimed that in India, 99.9 per cent of people breathe unhealthy air with respect to guidelines determined for various pollutants by the World Health Organization.
“Air pollution is now the biggest environmental risk for early death; pollution-related deaths numbered 1.67 million in 2019. Decades of research have shown that air pollution increases the amount and seriousness of lung and heart disease and other health problems,” it stated.
Arun Sharma, Director of the Jodhpur-based National Institute for Implementation Research on Non Communicable Diseases, mentioned in the report that this analysis is a reiteration that ‘air pollution is not a problem of cities alone; the rural population is as much affected’.
“Prevention and mitigation measures should be based on local conditions. Documentation of health effects is as important as exposure documentation,” he added.