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Alarming air quality scene in India

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But for the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi’s average daily peak reading of fine particulate matter from Punjabi Bagh, a monitor whose readings are often below those of other city and independent monitors, was 473, more than twice as high as the average of 227 in Beijing. By the time pollution breached 500 in Beijing for the first time on the night of Jan 15, Delhi had already had eight such days. Indeed, only once in three weeks did New Delhi’s daily peak value of fine particles fall below 300, a level more than 12 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

“It’s always puzzled me that the focus is always on China and not India,” said Dr Angel Hsu, director of the environmental performance measurement program at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. “China has realized that it can’t hide behind its usual opacity, whereas India gets no pressure to release better data. So there simply isn’t good public data on India like there is for China.”

Experts have long known that India’s air is among the worst in the world. A recent analysis by Yale researchers found that seven of the 10 countries with the worst air pollution exposures are in South Asia. And evidence is mounting that Indians pay a higher price for air pollution than almost anyone. A recent study showed that Indians have the world’s weakest lungs, with far less capacity than Chinese lungs. Researchers are beginning to suspect that India’s unusual mix of polluted air, poor sanitation and contaminated water may make the country among the most dangerous in the world for lungs.

- - - - Indians’ relatively poor lung function has long been recognized, but researchers assumed for years that the difference was genetic. Then a 2010 study found that the children of Indian immigrants who were born and raised in the United States had far better lung function than those born and raised in India. “It’s not genetics; it’s mostly the environment,” said Dr. MyLinh Duong, an assistant professor of respirology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

In a study published in October, Dr. Duong compared lung tests taken in 38,517 healthy nonsmokers from 17 countries who were matched by height, age and sex. Indians’ lung function was by far the lowest among those tested.

For the full report in the New York Times, click here.

Never realised it was this bad. And, Bangalore can't be much better either. So, the answer lies in reversing the process; not abandoning the cities. And, we all owe it to the future generations.

Muralidhar Rao


blrpraj's picture

thanks for bringing this up - But what is being done?

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murali avare,

Thanks for bringing up this very important topic. The abysymal air quality in india can be traced to very 3 simple basic facts

- Planning & vision [for example a national madate and a target for conversion of vehicles(to electric vehicles or solar-electric hybrid vehicles]. Along with government there has to be cohesive interaction between industry and educational/research institutions(IIT etc.).

- Implementation

- Lastly and certainly not any less important - ENFORECEMENT. How many smog detection stations are there that actually regulate the emissions of vehicles like autos, buses etc?


The horrible air quality of India is no secret and has only worsened over the past 25 years or so. I don't see any respite till all vehicles are aggressively pushed to a all electric or solar/electric hybrid more. I think public transportation can be the first to start a new era by saving fuel as well as improving air quality. Here are a few links that can illustrate how to get off fossil fuel, save on the fuel bill as well as improve air quality simultaneously -  [very interesting link since it applies to the notorious auto rickshaw which is responsible for air AND noise pollution both of which can be addressed by this approach and reduce operational costs resulting in reduced fare for the passenger].



There is immense potential in taking this up; with india's technological prowess and then engineers it churns out this is a great way to create jobs, develop and export industry AND cleanup the air at home. Hope a visionary like Ratan Tata or Birla or Narayana Murthy wakes up to the immense potential :-)



MaheshK's picture

Need to address the issues ASAP

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Murali sir, glad that you brought up the issue.

We know the universal truth that bad air leads to several health issues. To have a clean air to breathe and manage, it needs a scientific approach. Doing things randomly is not the solution. Air pollution issues are regulatory driven. Respective boards and agencies need to be proactive. Yes, our city's air is getting dirtier. Wrote a call to action report regarding transportation air pollution in June 2011 which was give to several govenment agecies. Some of the issues are already addressed by the government.

One of my core expertise is in air pollution control / air quality management. Ready to assist and work on the issues, if there is an opportunity. I am trained in the west on these issues. Settled in my native Bangalore, can do more for the city and state.

(cant cut/paste text from Word)

abidpqa's picture

Monitoring equipment

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Pollution monitoring equipment by Karnataka Pollution Control Board is placed on Church street which does not represent the air we are breathing and sound pollution.  Pollution data from MG road, Old Madras road, Outer ring road, Mysore Bank Jn and other high traffic areas needed. comment guidelines

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