A Smart Air analysis of new air quality data found that pollution improved in 2019 in all major cities in india. Small PM2.5 particles in the air decreased from 2018 to 2019 by as much as 15.5%.
Even though all cities saw pollution decrease, Delhi saw just a meagre 1% decrease. Among India’s five largest cities, Delhi still holds the medal for most polluted at 98 micrograms of PM2.5 (µg/m3).
This news may come as little surprise to Delhiites, who lived through a declared public health emergency November 1st.
Delhi Air Worst in Winter, Harmful All Year Long
Broken down by month, Delhi’s air pollution closely mirrored 2018. Delhi’s most polluted month in 2019 which averaged 197 micrograms—nearly 20 times the WHO annual limit.
Despite its toxic air, the Cities100 report highlighted the Delhi government’s efforts to tackle air pollution. Delhi has declared efforts to close down its dirtiest power stations, subsidize development and procurement of renewables, and increase electric vehicles, including electric buses.
After worsening air in 2018, Kolkata’s PM2.5 pollution decreased 14% in 2019. However, stretching back to 2015, Kolkata is back to where it started, showing no progress over four years.
The decrease in 2019 might be due to Kolkata’s efforts towards greening people’s commutes, introducing electric buses and ferries. These efforts brought Kolkata to fifth place on the Sustainable Mobility sector in the Cities100 report and may bring down pollution in the years to come.
Mumbai Sees Significant Air Improvement
In Mumbai, PM2.5 fell significantly by 37% in 2019, from 67 micrograms to 42.
If current plans become reality, lungs in Mumbai may have better days ahead. To fight air pollution, in the second half of 2019, Mumbai submitted an action plan that proposed launching electric buses.
Hyderabad PM2.5 Pollution Drops in 2019
Hyderabad air saw a 21% drop in PM2.5 in 2019. PM2.5 dropped from 52 micrograms to 41, although that still puts Hyderabad far above the WHO annual limit.
Chennai saw lower PM2.5 in 2019, even after yearly improvement each year since 2016. In 2019, PM2.5 dropped 10% to 26 micrograms, making it the cleanest major city in India.
Air Still Unsafe in All Major Indian Cities
Despite the progress, PM2.5 in all major Indian Cities are still farm above the WHO Annual Limit of 10 micrograms. This matters because long-term exposure to PM2.5 above 10 micrograms has been shown to increase cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality. According to the WHO’s Air Quality Guidelines, this link has been established with more than 95% confidence.
However, there may be reason for optimism. In 2019, the Indian government launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The program has a goal of 20%-30% reductions in PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024, compared to 2017.
Studies Document Protective Effects of Purifiers, Masks
Despite the harms of PM2.5, studies have found that wearing masks prevents effects on blood pressure and heart rate variability. Placebo-controlled studies of air purifiers have found that reducing particulate in the home prevents harm to blood pressure, inflammation, and immune response—even among young, healthy twenty-year-olds.
Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to artificially inflate the price of clean air. To help people living in polluted cities protect themselves, Smart Air provides empirically backed, no-nonsense purifiers and masks, helping to lower the cost of clean air.
Melina is Smart Air’s Research and Development Engineer. She majors in Electrical Engineering in National University of Singapore