With the levels of pollution rising this year, the downward dip, induced by the hard lockdown phases of the pandemic in 2020, will not persist, a new analysis of regional pollution trends done by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) showed.
“This analysis of real time air quality data for the period 2019-2021 shows that the downward dip in pollution that was induced by the hard lockdown phases of the pandemic in 2020 is threatening to bounce back with the levels in 2021 already rising. But in many cases, the levels are still lower than 2019. This underscores the urgency of scaling up action across all sectors to prevent further worsening and to arrest the trend in this region,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy at CSE.
As a result, the eastern states of India i.e. Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha — are now feeling the sting of increased winter air pollution, the study showed.
As the winter smog that engulfs north India during early November begins to extend eastwards during late December and early January, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha are affected mostly during this time when winter inversion and the cool and calm conditions trap the local pollution that is already high.
“Even though real time air quality monitoring has begun to expand in these states to provide more up to date and real time information on air quality, there are serious concerns around missing data and gaps that makes proper risk assessment difficult. In some stations of Bihar and Odisha, data availability is so low that the trend cannot be assessed. Quality control of data is necessary,” said Avikal Somvanshi, programme manager at Urban Data Analytics Lab, CSE.
This new analysis of real-time pollution data by the CSE is a part of the air quality tracker initiative of its Urban Data Analytics Lab, whose objective is to understand the trend and magnitude of pollution in different regions that have real-time air quality monitoring systems. This is an assessment of annual and seasonal trends in PM2.5 concentration for the period January 1, 2019, to January 4, 2022, which covers 29 continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) spread across 12 cities in the above mentioned three states.