A study conducted at six places US President Barack Obama is slated to visit has found that air pollution levels are three times more than Indian safety standards and nine times than the WHO limit.
The study was conducted yesterday by NGO Greenpeace India at six locations, including Raj Ghat and Hyderabad House. It revealed that the air quality was “unhealthy and hazardous”.
“The organisation followed US President Obama’s route and used an air-monitoring device called-PDR 1500 to track the pollution levels.
“We wanted to find out how much pollution US President Obama is expected to breathe. Our data and readings are quite shocking. Despite the wet weather, the real-time, instant exposure levels were found to be poor and unhealthy,” a statement from the NGO said.
It said, “Greenpeace India monitors the PM2.5 levels in Central Delhi and finds peak pollution levels to be three times the Indian safety limits, nine times that of the WHO’s and 2.5 times the average levels in Beijing.”
The maximum level of PM2.5 was 264 micrograms/cubic metre at Janpath while at Hyderabad House it was 239 micrograms/ cubic meter, the study said.
At Rajghat, it was 229 micrograms/cubic meter.
The NGO also said that Delhi residents have been breathing extremely poor air this winter with PM2.5 averages peaking at 320 micrograms/cubic meter, which is six times the Indian safety limits and 14 times that of the WHO’s.
Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter are called fine particles as they are so small they can be detected only with an electron microscope.
PM2.5 has been recognised as a major health hazard all around the world resulting in a wide range of illnesses including cancer. Its impacts are felt most on the respiratory, reproductive and cardiac systems leading to an increased rate of mortality.
“The precautionary measures being taken by the US government to ensure the safety of their president is a clear indication of how unacceptable the pollution levels in Delhi are,” said Aishwaraya Madineni, Greenpeace India campaigner.
She said that although US President Obama will soon be returning home the people of Delhi will be left to breathe the same toxic air.
Commenting on the levels on the entire winter season here, Madineni said,”Delhi’s air quality was at its worst this winter with heavy episodes of smog leading to PM2.5 averages soaring at 320 micrograms/cubic meter.
“This is extremely dangerous. There is an urgent need to curb the air pollution levels in the city and I hope the Indian Government recognises and accepts the need to act now in order to protect and safe-guard the health of its own citizens,” said Madinen.
The NGO said that Indian government’s “ambient air-quality standards” are several times lower than that of the WHO’s and the annual averages set by Beijing.
Noting that consistent and increasing trend in Delhi’s air pollution levels is a cause of concern and a serious health hazard, the NGO called for immediate step to put in place stringent actions that will result in improved air quality in the city.
Barack Obama has embarked on his highly anticipated three-day landmark trip to India today during which the two countries will strive to make progress on climate change, defence and economic cooperation. Obama left by Air Force One, the presidential aircraft, from the Andrews Air Force Base.