New Delhi: If India had an air quality monitoring system as robust as that of Beijing, a large portion of north India would have been on red alert for over 30 days between September and November, NGO Greenpeace said on Thursday.
"As per data obtained from India's National Air Quality Index (NAQI) website, in the 91 days between September and November, Delhi met the Chinese criteria for a red alert on 33 days, and Lucknow for no less than 40 days," Greenpeace said in a statement.
The problem is not limited to Delhi and Lucknow alone, as several other north Indian cities are facing similar high levels of pollution, it said.
"Beijing just issued its first formal red alert, entailing very strict measures to curtail pollution emissions from factories, vehicles, construction and other activities, as well as closing down schools to protect pupils. These measures certainly helped mitigate the impacts of the episode over the past couple of days," said Greenpeace East Asia global campaigner Lauri Myllyvirta.
India can take advantage of the experience in China and leapfrog several steps towards achieving national air quality standards, Greenpeace India said. It added that for instance, India can adopt firm, time-bound targets for national and regional action plans.
"In China, if the AQI scores hit a level of 200 and are predicted to last for more than three consecutive days, a red alert alarm is triggered. In the Indian equivalent system, this would be set at a score of 300, but there is no corresponding system for predicting the impact, or triggering an alert," it added.
"The government's own data suggests that the air quality in several north Indian cities is worse than the air in Beijing, and yet we remain tentative in recognising this 'Airpocalypse' as a pollution disaster," said Greenpeace India campaigner Sunil Dahiya.