The Dirty TEN

By: Staff Reporter
The ten topmost cities of India with unbelievable levels of air pollution have been laid bare by the ‘Urban outdoor air pollution database’, September 2011, by the Department of Public Health and Environment, World Health Organization. Although the causes of high levels of annual mean particulate matter (PM) with diameter of 10 µg/m3 or less are varied, here are the cities that have achieved the dubious distinction of being the top ten polluted cities in India. On the global scale the highest world record lies with Ahwaz in Iran with 372 µg/m3 and lowest falls in Santa Fe and Clearlake in the US, Whitehorse in Canada with 6 PM10. India ranks the 13th most polluted country out of the 91 studied with an annual mean of 109 µg/m3.

1) Ludhiana

PM 10: 251

Global rank: 4

A June 2010 Report by Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) states that industrial units have been worsening the air quality of the city. As per inventory prepared by PPCB there are 994 polluting industries in Ludhiana emitting the aforesaid pollutants. Furthermore, due to an erratic power supply most of the establishments, residential houses and industries have installed diesel gensets to cater to their power needs, which are spewing uncontrolled emissions within the city limits. Moreover, anaerobic digestion of untreated garbage in water bodies and landfills within the city limits is emitting methane etc. The Environment Statistics of Punjab compiled for the year 2011 by Economic and Statistical Organisation (ESO) cites increasing pollution from vehicles as a major cause of air pollution. Ludhiana is fast turning out to be the vehicle capital of Punjab, with 12.2 lakh vehicles registered with the district authorities, with nearly one lakh vehicles added within 2011 (Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways). The Department of Family and Welfare, Punjab, states that the number of asthma patients is on the rise; and Dayanand Medical College and Hospital’s Vice-Principal Jagdeep Whig in an interview with the Times of India on February 4, 2011 added that nearly 80 patients visit OPD per day with chest blockage with 30 per cent of them suffering from asthma. PPCB reports that after the phasing out of three wheelers, some of the phased out vehicles have started operating in Ludhiana illegally. These unregistered three wheelers have been estimated to be around 20,000 in 2011 and are a major source of air pollution within the city as they generally use adulterated fuel.


2) Kanpur

 PM10 – 209

Global rank – 10

Kanpur is famous for its cotton, woollen and leather industries. Most of the heavy and large scale industries like fertiliser, gun factories and power plants are located in the southwest part of the city and a cluster of tanneries along the Ganga River in Jajmau Industrial Estate is situated in the northeast part. These industrial units along with a burgeoning traffic load contribute significantly to air pollution (U Gupta, 2011, ‘Estimation of Welfare Losses from Urban Air Pollution Using Panel Data from Household Health Diaries’, Cambridge University Press). According to a study by Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the number of registered vehicles rose from 642000 to 10018000, a 15 time increase in a decade. Studies undertaken by GSVM Medical College, Kanpur and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) show depressed lung function among people residing in Vikas Nagar and Juhilal Colony, as compared to those living in a cleaner environment. According to the Uttar Pradesh, Status of Environment and Related Issues (UPENVIS), 0.4 million disability adjusted life years are lost every year in Uttar Pradesh due to air pollution.


3) Delhi

PM – 198

Global rank – 12

A book by Ashok Kumar Jain (2009), on ‘Low Carbon City: Policy, Planning and Practice’ assesses vehicular emission (around 70 per cent) and industrial emission (around 20 per cent)—a major contributor being thermal power plants, as the major cause of pollution in the city. According to him, in the last two decades pollution relates to the growth in personal transport as compared to public transport. The Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, reveals that there were about 36350000 registered vehicles in the city in 2001 and in 2011 it has increased to 72277000, an increase of 98.8 per cent. The vehicles in the city would however be well beyond this number as cars are registered in the adjoining states of Haryana, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh to be used within the city limits. The adverse effects of air pollution on health such as damage to the central nervous system, worsening of asthma and an increase in infant mortality rates, are well documented in many studies and news reports. S.K Guttikunda et al., (2009), ‘Monitoring and Mapping Urban Air Pollution: A One Day Experiment in Delhi, India’ found that high pollution levels in Delhi are associated with lung function deficits, and about 10,900 premature deaths every year in Delhi occur due to ambient particulate matter pollution. The Times of India report ‘Thought Beijing air was bad? Delhi’s no better’ published in January 15, 2013 states that in November 2012, when the city was in the throes of its worst smog spell in recent years, PM2.5 levels were consistently over 500 mg/cu m over several places. According to World Health Organization, the safe level of PM2.5 is 20 mg/cu m.


4) Lucknow

PM 10 – 186

Global rank – 15

Increasing population growth of the city coupled with commercial and industrial growth has resulted in rising pollution in the city. The CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (2012) ‘Assessment of ambient air quality of Lucknow city during pre-monsoon’ reports that the total daily mortality increased by approximately 1 per cent for every 10 ug/m3 increase in PM10 concentration. Unlimited growth of number of vehicles and release of invisible tailpipe pollutants emission are serious issues that call for stringent action.  The Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, reveals that in 2001 the number of registered vehicles in the city was 465000 and in 2011 it rose to 12109000, a stupendous increase of 160.4 per cent! Epidemiological studies have shown that short-term exposure to NO2 and CO is associated with increased cardiovascular mortality, including cerebrovascular diseases and ischemic heart disease. Also elevated noise levels have been associated with adverse impact on human health, ranging from minor annoyance to physiological damage.


5) Indore

PM 10 – 174

Global rank – 19

Indore, the commercial capital city of Madhya Pradesh has seen an unprecedented rise in vehicle population in recent years. A paper by S K Guttikunda et al., (2012) ‘Urban Air Pollution and Co-Benefits Analysis for Indian Cities – Pune, Chennai, Indore, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Rajkot’, Urban Emissions.Info (Ed.), SIM-air Working Paper Series, states that the vehicle exhaust, road dust, domestic solid fuel combustion, generator usage in multiple venues (such as hospitals, hotels, markets, and apartment complexes), industrial emissions including those from brick kilns and rock quarries, construction activities in the city, and waste burning along the roadside and at the landfills are causing a high level of air pollution. The Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011 states that between the two time periods registered vehicles rose from 517000 to 1213000—an increase of 134.6 per cent. The paper mentioned above also estimates that by 2020, Pune, Chennai, Indore, Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot will account for an estimated annual 21,400 premature deaths due to air pollution in the component for Indore alone is estimated at 2,500.


6) Agra

PM 10 – 165

Global rank – 21

A report by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) entitled ‘Overview Report’ published in 1990, states that the sources of air pollution in Agra region were particularly from iron foundries, ferro-alloy industries, rubber processing, lime processing, engineering, chemical industries, brick kilns, refractory units and automobiles. Distant sources of pollution are the Mathura Refinery and Ferozabad bangles and glass industries. It also stated that Taj Mahal, which is experiencing a corroding effect on the gleaming white marble is due to the sulphur dioxide emitted by the Mathura Refinery and the industries located in Agra and Ferozabad, which when combined with moisture in the atmosphere forms sulphuric acid and causes acid rain. The current number of vehicles in 2011 is 640000 as per the Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.


7) Kolkata

PM 10 – 148

Global rank – 26

The Automobile Pollution Annual Report 2003-2004, West Bengal Pollution Control Board states that automobile pollution has increased in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA). As in March 2003, a total of 8,41,530 vehicles were registered with the Public Vehicles Department, Kolkata and a total of 5, 78,114 vehicles in the other five KMA districts of 24 Parganas (South), 24 Parganas (North), Howrah, Hooghly and Nadia. A paper on ‘A study on automobile pollution in Kolkata’ by B K Majumdar published in Indian Journal of Air Pollution, 2008 states that major sources of air pollution in the city are automobile exhausts (50 per cent), industrial emissions (48 per cent) and cooking (2 per cent). A sharp rise in the newly privately owned as well as public vehicles along with a large number of highly polluting old vehicles (58 per cent plying on the city streets) raises the vehicular pollution levels of the city. A report titled ‘Air pollution suffocates Calcutta’ by BBC News published on May 3, 2007 stated that some 70 per cent of people in the city of Kolkata suffer from respiratory disorders caused by air pollution based on a study by a prominent cancer institute – Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI). One of its key findings stated a direct link between air pollution and the high incidence of lung cancer in the city. In 2011 Kolkata had 4447000 vehicles (Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways).


8) Faridabad

PM 10 – 139

Global rank – 32

A report on ‘Action Plan For Abatement of Pollution in respect of Faridabad Town’ (2012) by Haryana State Pollution Control Board states the predominant sources contributing to various pollutants in Faridabad as industrial, vehicular and non point source emissions such as coal and biomass burning in slum cluster and construction activities in and around Faridabad town. As stated in the Report there are 491 air polluting industries including stone crushers (163) operating in the city. According to a report ‘Pollution rising in Faridabad’ published by the Times of India on June 18, 2003, the city has seen rising problems in skin, hair, lungs, nervous system, respiratory system and decreasing immunity towards various diseases. As per the data by Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, vehicles accounted for 70 per cent of this pollution.


9) Jabalpur

PM 10 – 136

Global rank – 35

The Environmental Information System, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) states that the major sources of high respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) is the increasing number of vehicles. The other reasons may be engine gensets, small scale industries, biomass incineration, boilers and emission from power plants, re-suspension of traffic dust, commercial and domestic use of fuels, etc. A report by R K Srivastava et al.,(2006) ‘Status of Ambient Air Quality of Gelatine Factory at Bhedaghat, Jabalpur, Industrial Pollution: Problems and Solution’, states that pollution by the emitted smokes from various factories specially, the Shaw Wallace Gellatine factory  located in Meerganj village of Jabalpur district has led to various health problems viz. respiratory diseases, skin diseases etc. in the nearby areas, and are showing adverse effects on animals and vegetation too. The total number of registered vehicles in Jabalpur in 2011 was 5592000 according to Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.


10) Mumbai

PM 10 – 132

Global rank – 37

Not only are levels of suspended particulate matter above permissible limits in Mumbai, but the worst pollutant after vehicular emissions has grown at an alarming rate—continually increasing over the past years. A bizarre episode came to light when The National in its article ‘Mumbai perfumes smelly rubbish dumps’ on September 7, 2008 reported that Mumbai authorities purchased 42,000 litres of perfume to spray on the city’s enormous waste dumps at Deonar and Mulund landfill after people living near complained of the stench. According to Mumbai Pollution Control Board logs, on January 16, 2013, for instance, SPM shot up to as high as 286 micrograms per cubic metre, and on January 6, 2013, NOx was recorded at 211 micrograms per cubic metre (India Environmental Portal, Centre for Science and Environment). The main cause of Mumbai’s poor air quality cited by CSE is due to increasing vehicular density and construction related fallouts. As vehicles emit more when it is slow moving, Mumbai’s bumper to bumper traffic has been cited as a primary cause. In 2001 the number of registered vehicles was 1030000, and in 2011 it increased to 18703000, which is an increase by 81.58 per cent, as per the Road and Transport Yearbook 2009-10 and 2010-2011, published in July 2012 by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways. ‘Mumbai’s SPM levels way above norm’ a report published by the Times of India on February 20, 2013 stated that a study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that an increase in the volume of PM2.5 particles by 10 micrometer per cubic meter of air raises the death rate among heart patients by 20 per cent; adding that 1.5 lakh such patients were hospitalised between 2004 and 2007 among which 39,863 deaths were recorded. Dr A Athawale, who heads the Parel-based KEM Hospital’s chest medicine department and is conducting several studies on the effects of air pollution quoted to the Times of India that, “Ultrafine particles such as PM2.5 are always a problem. But for heart patients high levels of carbon monoxide gas would be most dangerous”.

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