Lucknow’s air quality several times worse than WHO guidelines: Greenpeace report
The report states that pollution levels in all the observed cities were dangerously and persistently higher than the latest World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines.
LUCKNOW Air pollution levels in 11 cities of the country, including Lucknow, are well over the danger mark, reveals the latest Greenpeace India report. The report, titled ‘Spare the Air’, was compiled after a year-long study between September 2021 and September 2022. The report states that pollution levels in all the observed cities were dangerously and persistently higher than the latest World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines.
In particular, Lucknow’s air was found to have an annual PM2.5 concentration of 79.24 μg/m3, which is 15.8 times higher than the safe levels (5 μg/m3) set by the WHO. This alarming level of PM2.5 concentration was recorded on all 366 days of the study period.
Similarly, the state capital’s annual PM10 concentration was recorded at 140.9 μg/m3, which is 9.3 times higher than the safe levels (10 μg/m3). Again, these alarming levels were recorded on all 366 days of the study period. The city’s annual NO2 concentration was also found 3.3 times higher than the safe levels at 32.95 μg/m3. These high levels of NO2 concentration were recorded on 341 of the 366 days.
Speaking on the findings, Avinash Chanchal from Greenpeace said, “The findings of this report should serve as a resounding wake-up call for our government. The analysis of air quality data emphasises the need for a regional airshed management approach to address the crisis effectively. The revision of national ambient air quality standards based on regional context should be the crucial first step in this process. It is concerning that over one year and ten months have passed since the WHO updated its air quality standards, while our own national standards remain stagnant.” He added, “It is for the government to prioritise clean energy sources like wind and solar, while actively promoting low-cost, carbon-neutral, and accessible transportation alternatives.”
Earlier, in 2021, the WHO conducted a systematic review, adjusting all the Air Quality Guidelines levels downwards. This was done due to the increasing evidence of air pollution affecting different aspects of health. The WHO had then warned that exceeding the new air quality guideline levels is associated with significant health risks. Studies have revealed that exposure to severe air pollution increases the likelihood of premature death and many medical conditions -- including asthma, preterm birth, low birth weight, depression, schizophrenia, diabetes, stroke, and lung cancer.
Dr CM Nautiyal, noted environmentalist and former scientist at Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, said, “Sub 2.5-micron pollution cannot be filtered out by our bodies. Pollutants like PM2.5 are mainly related to coal. Switching to solar power is a possible solution. Protection of the planted vegetation is as important as planting saplings. Also, public transport infrastructure must be improved. Activities like walking and cycling should be promoted. Considering the cost of treatment and loss of productive hours later on, making attempts to prevent pollution may prove to be cheaper in the long term.”
In a similar vein, environmentalist VK Joshi said, “Greenpeace report is certainly an eye opener. It talks of air-shed management. If government checks rampant construction activity with an iron hand in Lucknow, we may be able to bring down pollution levels. We also need to protect life-saving trees. The role of the development authority is quite important in all this. It must be made sure that developers are following all norms. Dust, along with other elements, reaches Lucknow easily in the absence of trees. IIT Delhi has done some pioneering work in the field of airshed management and their opinion can be sought regarding its feasibility on Lucknow’s air.”