Air

Meerut's air quality more threatening than Delhi; old vehicles, industries add to woes

Inner Meerut's PM 2.5 concentration peaked at 1470μg/m3 as against the safe limit of 60μg/m3

 
By Polash Mukerjee
Last Updated: Tuesday 10 January 2017
Many vehicles emitting visibly soot-laden smoke were seen plying on the roads within Meerut. Credit: JonnyConga/ Flicker
Many vehicles emitting visibly soot-laden smoke were seen plying on the roads within Meerut. Credit: JonnyConga/ Flicker Many vehicles emitting visibly soot-laden smoke were seen plying on the roads within Meerut. Credit: JonnyConga/ Flicker

With the recent focus on pollution in the national capital, much has been done and said with regards to the sources of air pollution and the action taken towards improving the quality of air. However, many of tier II cities in India, including state capitals, have similar problems of outdoor air pollution. The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) recently monitored the air quality in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, which is one of the largest urban agglomerations in the National Capital region. The CSE team was supported by Raman Kant Tyagi, Director of the Meerut-based Neer Foundation, which has been highlighting the poor local air quality in Meerut.

For the purpose of analysis, outer and inner Meerut was separately monitored.

Route followed for outer Meerut

Tejgadhi Square – L Block, Shastri Nagar – Bijli Bamba Bypass –Jagran Square – Partapur – Roorkee Road Bybass –Modipuram–Tank Square –Mall Road–Commissioner Square–Jail Chungi –Chaudhary Charan Singh University.

The average PM 2.5 concentration found on this route over 81 minutes of monitoring was 145μg/m3. The peak was as high as 518μg/m3.

The concentration of PM 10 was 179μg/m3 on an average, with peak levels of 656μg/m3 detected.

Route followed for inner Meerut

Hotel Samrat Havens – Gadh Bus Stand – Hapur Bus Depot – Ivjh Square –Children’s Park – Begumpul – Abu Lane – Roadways Bus Stand – Jali Kothi – Railway Road Square – Baghpat Stand – Bhumiyapul – Indira Chowk – Clocktower – Kachehripul –Commissioner Square–SSP Office–DM Residence – MDA–Circuit House–Surajkund –Chaudhary Charan Singh University–Lala Lajpat Rai Medical College–Hotel Samrat Havens

The average PM 2.5 concentration found on this route over 137 minutes of monitoring was 212μg/m3. The peak was as high as 1470μg/m3.

The concentration of PM 10 was 329μg/m3 on an average, with peak levels of 1720μg/m3 detected.

According to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards notified by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2009, the 24-hour average safe limit standards for PM 2.5 is 60μg/m3, and 100μg/m3 for PM 10.

The graph below depicts the concentrations found in CSE’s monitoring vis-a-vis the national standards:

 PM 2.5 Concentration found in Meerut as per CSE’s study

Sources of pollution

The pollution levels found in Meerut exceed the safe limits by 2-4 times. While outer Meerut, which is greener and has wide open spaces, sees the influence of industrial stack emissions and the presence of ambient air pollutants from other sources in Delhi and NCR. Inner Meerut sees the concentration and accumulation of these pollutants which remain trapped in the densely populated residential areas. Even in parks and gardens, the proximity to the sources remains constant. The single largest man-made source of pollution, which remains constant through the year, is vehicular emission. While other sources like pollution from burning of biomass and other agricultural residue and the widespread use of fireworks occur at specific times of the year, vehicular pollution remains constant.

The emphasis on the enforcement of rules is lower in tier 2 cities such as Meerut Credit: Polash Mukherjee/ CSE

Moreover, many older and more polluting vehicles which are no longer permissible in Delhi are used freely in smaller towns such as Meerut. The emphasis on the enforcement of rules is lower in these smaller centres. For instance, in spite of the rule preventing the plying of heavy commercial vehicles within the city limits during daylight hours, many trucks emitting visibly soot-laden smoke were seen plying on the roads within Meerut. Similarly, while all public transport, including auto-rickshaws, buses and privately run minibuses, taxis and share-rickshaws are mandated to operate use cleaner CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) in Delhi, in Meerut, barely  50 km from Delhi’s borders, all these vehicles continue to operate on polluting diesel. The inability to use older and more polluting vehicles in Delhi also means that these vehicles are usually sold off to individuals and enterprises in smaller centres such as Meerut, where they are used till the end of their lives.

Similarly, industries are another major source of pollution caused in these smaller centres. The rules that regulate industrial emissions in Delhi are stringent in comparison to those governing industries in areas such as Meerut and Sahibabad. The enforcement of these rules is another question altogether. The focus of civil society and the media on air pollution in Delhi has considerably picked up in the last few years. However, the flip side of this is the lower attention paid to pollution in some of India’s smaller cities. It allows for some complacency to creep in, which, combined with a sense of false security in the assumption that “Our city isn’t as bad as Delhi” brings in, results in inaction over air pollution.

Regulatory agencies such as the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, along with local media representatives and civil society, will play a key role in highlighting the rising levels of air pollution and other issues with air quality in tier two cities such as Meerut.

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