GUWAHATI- Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) warns of growing air pollution in cities of northeast. The CSE in it’s recent report said put the Guwahati and Agartala at top the list of most polluted cities in the northeast region of India.
A new analysis by CSE, the New Delhi-based think tank, says that the problem of air pollution is growing steadily in the northeast, putting paid to the impression of pristine blue skies and clean air that people usually have about this region.
Guwahati has the most polluted air in northeastern India. Average PM2.5 levels in 2021 (uptill November 30) has already surpassed the 2019 annual average in Guwahati. The city’s 2020 annual average was also higher than its 2019 average which indicates continuous worsening of air in the city.
Agartala with a 2020 average of 45 microgramme per cubic metre (ug/m3) is the second most polluted city in the region. Kohima with a 2020 average of 35 ug/m3 is the third most polluted city in the region. Aizwal and Naharlagun donot meet the minimum data availability requirement, but the limited data available indicates that these two would most probably be meeting the annual standard.
This year, so far, the number of days with air quality in ‘very poor’ or ‘severe’ categories stands at 54 days in Guwahati city. This is comparable to cities of north India which are more polluted compared to those in the northeastern states.
“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.
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,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, CSE.
“Gaps in air quality data and lack of quality control of data make it difficult to construct reliable air quality trends for these cities,” says Avikal Somvanshi, programme manager, Urban Lab, CSE. “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.”
CSE has analysed 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.
This analysis covers seven continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) spread across six cities in an equal number of states: two stations in Guwahati (Assam) and one station each in Shillong (Meghalaya), Agartala (Tripura), Kohima (Nagaland), Aizwal (Mizoram) and Naharlagun (Arunachal Pradesh).
There is no real-time monitoring in Manipur and Sikkim, which is why the analysis is unable to cover these states.