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Smaller cities becoming pollution hotspots

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Staff Reporter

Decline in pollution levels of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata , Ahmedabad and Hyderabad

NEW DELHI: Newer and smaller cities are scaling the pollution peak and are more polluted than even some of the metros, reveals a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report released by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit here on Wednesday.

The report, "The Leapfrog Factor: Clearing the Air in Asian Cities", tackles various issues including rising vehicular air pollution in India. According to experts, Delhi would have been reeling under a pollution load of 38 per cent more particulate matter if the Supreme Court had not intervened to introduce cleaner fuels and emission technology in the city.

"Delhi's air is cleaner today but it still not clean enough. What's worse, more and more Indian citites -- a number of which are small, non-metro -- are turning into smog-encased pollution hotspots. While cities in India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad have seen a decline in pollution levels, small cities are being swamped by rising pollution levels," said CSE Associate Director Anumita Roychowdhury. Cautioning that Delhi's success was just a small beginning and that the gains of the Capital can be lost if we don't get our act together, she added: "As much as 17 per cent of the cars in India run in Delhi alone. It has more cars than the total numbers of cars in the individual States of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and West Bengal that adds to the emission pressure in the Capital."

In 57 per cent of the cities monitored in India, particulate matter is at critical levels. The report also exposes the Government's lack of initiative in another area.

Gaseous fuel programmes including CNG afford an opportunity to leapfrog to cleaner emissions. But despite the success of the CNG programme in Delhi and the interest of other cities -- Ahmedabad, Kanpur and Lucknow -- to adopt it, the Government has failed to frame a composite policy to promote gaseous fuels for transport. The basic issues of pricing of natural gas to improve its competitiveness, and expediting implementation of the natural gas grid to link a much larger number of cities remain unresolved.

"The report makes a strong plea that India will have to jump ahead to control one of the most serious public health challenges in cities. Besides being a compendium of findings from a 10-year-long campaign, the report is also a product of our times -- one that attempts to take the bull by the horn," said Ms. Roychowdhury.

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