New Delhi: An average day in Delhi would be considered a very bad-air day in Beijing which, unlike Delhi, has a five-year action plan in place to protect its citizens from harmful air, Greenpeace India today claimed.
The green NGO, which has collated data from various studies to give perspective about Beijing and Delhi in terms of parameters of pollution and mitigation plans, said Delhi's air pollution is worst than that of the Chinese capital and called for stringent targets for industrial emissions and an action plan to protect citizens from air pollution.
"New Delhi is breathing the most polluted air in the world, according to WHO report in 2014. The WHO found that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, with New Delhi's air being the world's worst.
"While Beijing's air quality has made headlines worldwide, a range of studies, backed by the government's own data, shows that New Delhi's air is often worse than that of Beijing," Greenpeace said.
The examination of pollution figures collected and based on bad and good air quality days from Beijing and Delhi suggests that on an average, Delhi's air is more laden with dangerous PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter than can penetrate deep into the lungs) than Beijing's.
Observing that an average day in Delhi would be considered a very bad-air day in Beijing, Greenpeace India said despite the capital's air pollution, there was hardly any emphasis on it in the Union Budget, and funding given to pollution control board was not enough to address a problem of this scale.
The NGO said Delhi also does not have Health Advisories or Action Plans in place which is contrary to Beijing which has a four-level alarm system to tackle heavy pollution episodes.
"There should be stringent targets for industrial emissions. We need an action plan similar to that of Beijing. It should include an emergency alert system that issues health advisories to public on heavy pollution days along with instructions for industries to cut down emissions.
"Delhi had several bad-air days in 2014 for which no health advisories were issued. We have no emission standards for coal-fired power plants in India, a sector responsible for emitting 7,500 tons of PM 2.5 into the city," Greenpeace campaigner Aishwarya Madineni said.
Noting that Delhi's PM 2.5 levels are several times higher than those of Beijing as per the data submitted by Pollution Control Board to WHO, Madineni said despite this, the Environment Ministry continues to be in denial of the fact that we are taking worse care of our citizens than Beijing.
"It is appalling to see the Union Environment Minister dismiss any need for precautionary measures such as masks or school closures on heavy pollution days," she said.
The green body said government needs to show it cares for its citizens - children, the sick and elderly who are at most risk from Delhi's toxic air.
It quoted a recent study published in the Economic and Political Weekly which indicated that 660 million people across India are exposed to unhealthy levels of PM 2.5 resulting in reduced life expectancy by 3.2 years on average.
PM2.5 is estimated to have been responsible for over three million premature deaths in 2010, it said.
Madineni said in the last couple of months, several studies including one from the Jawaharlal Nehru University have thrown light on the hazardous levels of PM 2.5 in Delhi possibly leading to as many as 47,800 premature deaths per one million population.
"The study has further acknowledged that Delhi's air is full of cancer-causing particles," it said.
The Central Pollution Control Board reported Delhi's average PM 2.5 level in 2013 as 153 ng/m3, based on hourly measurements at six different stations which is 15 times the WHO guideline and 3.8 times the national standard while Delhi's average is also 80 per cent higher than the average in Beijing, it noted.
As per a recent study published in the Atmospheric Pollution Research Journal, an international journal on air pollution and atmospheric processes, the Nation Capital Region in Delhi faces the highest health risks from air pollution.