Bearing the brunt: Vehicles have been roundly blamed for India’s air quality crisis, despite several other factors also being responsible | Image credit: Vox(dot)com

What’s ailing the air pollution media coverage in India?

Recently, the off-the-track media coverage of air pollution in South and South-East Asia came under scanner of Vital Strategies analysis that found a disconnect between media’s perception of the causes of air pollution and the solutions. In India, while the air pollution coverage was extensive (post WHO report and Lankan cricketers’ Delhi nausea stories), leading to (much delayed) formation of National Clean Air Programme, the press was found either inactive on probing non-compliance, or incorrect on reporting about solutions.

Consider this: there was little coverage on state and industry’ compliance of emission norms. The study of 14,000 Asian press articles found that vehicular emissions was reported as the biggest cause of air pollution, while power plants barely featured. But reports on perceived solutions talked mostly about the need for energy efficient power plants. “Vehicles are convenient for governments [to blame for air pollution], because they make the middle class a part of the problem,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst, global air pollution unit, Greenpeace.

“Vehicle bias” is particularly pronounced in India, where studies have shown that traffic contributes in a very small way to overall PM2.5 levels, Myllyvirta said.

India’s env. minister says no conclusive link between air pollution and mortality rates

Indian Environment minister Harsh Vardhan told Parliament there exists no conclusive data in the country to link death and disease directly to air pollution. However, the minister made no reference to the state-wise study conducted by Health ministry body and published in the Lancet journal on the impact of air pollution on deaths and disease. The study established that every one in eight deaths in India could be linked to air pollution.

Delhi to get its first “preemptive” pollution action plan by February

Delhi will get its first “preemptive” fortnightly pollution action plan by February. The updates would provide predictions on the likely spikes in air pollution in the next two weeks as well as point out specific sites that would encounter higher pollution, among other things.

Delhi may limit registration of new vehicles to tackle pollution

In what could be a landmark move, the Centre and Delhi government are considering restricting vehicle registrations in Delhi to fight air pollution and traffic congestion. Approximately 1,850 new vehicles are registered in the national capital every day – which already has over 11 million registered vehicles – and an additional 80,000 vehicles enter the city daily.

Delhi’s air pollution touches “emergency” levels, but Kolkata clocks in at even worse

Delhi air pollution reached emergency levels in the new year with PM2.5 levels touching 500 µg/m³ in some parts of the capita l – breaching last year’s high of 450 µg/m³
on Dec 23. Cold temperatures forced residents to burn fires to keep warm, further adding to the city’s smog. Campaigners say most of pollution preventive measures this year have failed.  However Delhi will now launch a real-time pollutant source-apportionment study with IIT-Kanpur. The institute did a similar study back in 2015.

The situation in Kolkata meanwhile worsened as air pollution in the city surpassed the “severe” levels of Delhi, with one of its locations touching 500 µg/m³. Campaigners say vehicular pollution, mainly commercial diesel vehicles, remains the main cause of Kolkata’s toxic air.

Quality of air in nine out of 12 Uttar Pradesh cities worse than that of Delhi

The air pollution levels in 9 out of 12 cities in Uttar Pradesh were reported to be worse than in Delhi on January 3rd. Baghpat district was the most polluted with AQI value of 457, with Ghaziabad next at 455.

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