90% Citizens Aware of Air Pollution, but AQI Levels on Diwali highlight gaps in perception
New Delhi, November 13, 2018: A public perception study was commissioned on air quality in 17 cities in India by the Clean Air Collective, an unbranded network of more than 80 civil society organisations, citizen groups and experts working on the issue of air pollution across India. The study, conducted by CMSR Consultants – a multi-disciplinary research group – was designed to find out the level of awareness (cause, effect, precaution & solution) among a demographic of 5000 people across highly polluted cities like Delhi NCR, Kolkata, Patna, Lucknow, Varanasi, Amritsar, Singrauli, Dhanbad, Raipur, Korba, Chandrapur, Angul, Nagpur, and cities becoming rapidly polluted, like Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai and Chennai.
Across the cities, more than 90% of the people interviewed have heard of air pollution. Delhi has the highest levels of awareness and is closely followed by Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata (all above 98%). Although awareness was higher in tier 1/metro cities with Delhi NCR leading the way, understanding of technical terms such as AQI, PM2.5 and PM10 ranked at 54%, 29.6% and 17.8% respectively. But it’s the age group of 18-25 years which “always” seeks information on air quality.
Ronak Sutaria from Urban Sciences observed, “The awareness about air pollution in smaller/tier II cities is still not adequate. Places like Korba, Singrauli & Dhanbad which are heavily affected by air pollution are the ones where there was the least awareness about air pollution. The low awareness about the terminologies clearly reveals more thought needs to be put in while communicating about air quality.”
“This comprehensive survey reveals that whilst awareness about the adverse effects of air pollution is very high, most people seem to think that they need to do nothing at the individual level. This perception needs to be addressed. It is only when people make this a priority issue will the politicians wake up and take action.” said Debi Goenka from Conservation Action Trust on people’s own initiatives to control pollution which only looked at, walking whenever possible at 59.7%, tree plantation at 40.2% and reduced energy consumption at homes at 36.2%.
On Diwali, air quality in Delhi NCR plummeted to ‘hazardous’ as PM 2.5 levels hit 999 in many part of the city, after residents flouted the Supreme Court’s 8 pm to 10 pm deadline to burst crackers. An Urban Emissions study revealed that close to 5 million kgs of firecrackers were burnt in Delhi, leading to PM2.5 emissions equal to 150,000 kg mass.
Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO of URJA, the apex body of Delhi’s RWAs said, “This exhaustive survey reaffirms the fact that people are aware about air pollution. However, looking at the violations that happened on Diwali night in most parts of north India, I feel that people do not fully believe in the stated causes of air pollution and its proportionate impact. They also do not correlate air pollution as a significant contributor to their existing or future health condition. There is a desperate need for a national level campaign aimed at addressing belief systems and changing behavior.”
While the Ministry of Environment is yet to notify a revised National Clean Air Action Plan for India’s choking cities, towns and villages, there is a high demand for immediate government intervention. More than 80% agree that a mass media campaign needs to be launched by the government, that polluting companies should be fined as per provisions in the law, that the government should bring in strict and new laws to control and mitigate pollution and that the government should put pressure on power stations and industries to switch to cleaner processes.
Yogesh Ranganath, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative said, “This (survey) highlights a big problem in the way information is disseminated currently, which is entirely based on AQI by the CPCB and very less emphasis on disseminating the underlying constituents in an easy to access and use manner. The measures to be employed for each type of pollutant is different and affects various vulnerable groups differently.”
Download the full report: Detailed Report – AQ perception survey
Key findings: Key findings- AQ perception survey
Survey highlights: Highlights of the Air Quality Perception Study.