Meghalaya’s Byrnihat most polluted ‘city’ in India

Bihar’s Araria, the second most polluted city in the country and Hapur in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh were the third and the fourth most polluted cities, say data

March 08, 2024 07:02 pm | Updated 08:05 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air released data on  polluted cities in India.

Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air released data on  polluted cities in India. | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Meghalaya’s Byrnihat, an industrial town on the border with Assam, was the most polluted ‘city’ in India during February, data released by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) said on Friday.

The study, based on the monthly average of (particulate matter) PM2.5, has put the spotlight on hazardous air pollution levels in urban centres across the States in the northeast, otherwise considered the greenest part of the country.

According to the CREA report, Byrnihat recorded a monthly average PM2.5 concentration of 183 µg/m3, which was around 60 µg/m3 higher than in Bihar’s Araria, the second-most polluted city in the country.

Hapur in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh were the third and the fourth most polluted cities.

The PM2.5 levels in Byrnihat were also almost 1.8 times the PM2.5 concentration recorded for Delhi for the same period, which was the 14th most polluted city in India for February 2024.

The other urban centres in the northeast which made it to the list of 30 most polluted cities in India in February were Nalbari (5th), Agartala (12th), Guwahati (19th), and Nagaon (28th), highlighting the worsening pollution levels across the region.

Out of 11 cities with continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations in the northeastern States, six recorded PM2.5 levels beyond the prescribed daily National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) by the Central Pollution Control Board.

Cleanest cities

Sivasagar, Silchar, Aizawl, and Imphal recorded monthly average PM2.5 concentrations below the NAAQS and were the cleanest cities in the region.

Sivasagar was the second cleanest city in India, followed by Silchar from the area at the 23rd spot. The cleanest was Satna in Madhya Pradesh and the third cleanest was Vijayapura in Karnataka.

However, none of the cities complied with the WHO-safe guideline concentrations for PM2.5, the study said.

“The data emphasise the pressing need for significantly bolstering air quality monitoring in the north-eastern States to track air pollution levels effectively,” Sunil Dahiya, a South Asia analyst at CREA, said.

“These States, once renowned for their pristine environment, are now witnessing a concerning shift due to unregulated industrial operations, inadequate public transportation infrastructure, rampant construction lacking efficient pollution control measures, and other contributing factors,” he said.

On the brighter side, there was a significant improvement in air quality in February with 36 cities falling into the ‘good’ category. This was 14 more than the 22 ‘good’ urban centres in January.

The ‘satisfactory” category also saw a substantial increase to 124 cities from 77 in January. Conversely, the count of cities in the ‘moderate’ category decreased to 66 from 84 in January.

The notable declines were observed in the ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ categories, with 24 and three cities respectively, down from 39 and 31 in January.

The drop in pollutant concentrations is attributed to improving wind speed and rising temperatures, along with other meteorological factors, and some reduction in emissions across different cities.

A total of 59 cities were featured in the daily most polluted cities list in February and 23 of those featured at least five times over the 29-day period, the CREA report said.

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