CSE Warns Of Growing Air Pollution In Northeast Cities

by Arun Kumar Das - Dec 18, 2021 05:42 PM +05:30 IST
CSE Warns Of Growing Air Pollution In Northeast CitiesMap of northeast India.
Snapshot
  • Though overall pollution in the region is low, air pollution is increasing in several cities.

A new analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says that the problem of air pollution is growing steadily in the states of India’s northeast, putting paid to the impression of pristine blue skies and clean air that people usually have about this region.

According to the analysis by the New Delhi-based think-tank, sparse and limited air quality data underrates the magnitude of the problem in cities of these regions.

Though overall pollution in the region is low, air pollution is increasing in several cities.

The report said the high pollution episode is common during winter despite low annual levels. Guwahati in Assam, Kohima in Nagaland, Aizawl in Mizoram, and Agartala in Tripura experience high pollution days.

Guwahati, Kohima and Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh show elevated NO2 levels in winter; also, high peaks during traffic hours.

The CSE report stated that these are the early signs of a growing public health crisis in the hilly terrains and valleys. Pollution from growing motorisation and congestion, use of solid fuels and open burning, and dispersed industrial sources are increasing the people’s toxic exposure.

It has advocated that cities of northeastern states need support under the National Clean Air Programme to implement locally appropriate clean air action and robust air quality monitoring networks for proper risk assessment.

"The current obsession with high pollution concentration in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and in overall northern India overshadows and sidelines the early signs of the crisis in our northeastern states in the national discourse on air pollution and public health, '' said CSE Executive Director Anumita Roychowdhury.

She said weak and inadequate air quality monitoring and paucity of data do not allow proper assessment of the risk. But even the limited evidence shows several cities — especially the state capitals — are already vulnerable to poor air quality and winter smog.

CSE has analyzed the urban air quality status in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh. This is part of the air quality tracker initiative of the Urban Data Analytics Lab of CSE, which was initiated last winter.

The objective of this new analysis is to understand the magnitude and trend in winter pollution in major cities of the region which have recently started real-time air quality monitoring.

“Gaps in air quality data and lack of quality control of data make it difficult to construct reliable air quality trends for these cities,” said CSE Programme Manager Avikal Somvanshi.

Somvanshi further said, “The air quality in the region is worsening. But this has not drawn adequate public attention. In winter, air quality of cities like Guwahati can be almost as bad as what we see in the National Capital Region (NCR) and cities of Uttar Pradesh. Pollution is also high in smaller cities like Agartala and Kohima.”

This is an assessment of annual and seasonal trends in PM2.5 concentration for the period January 1, 2019 to December 7, 2021.

The analysis is based on the real-time data available from currently functioning air quality monitoring stations in the northeast. Suggesting measures to contain pollution, Roychowdhury said, “Cities of northeastern states need urgent attention and support under the National Clean Air Programme to implement locally appropriate clean air action and robust air quality monitoring network for proper risk assessment.”

Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com.


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