India overtakes China’s air pollution levels in 2015: study

Insight

Levels of hazardous PM2.5 (inhalable particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size) from India exceeded that of China in 2015 for the first time this century, a report by non-government organization Greenpeace revealed.

CCTV’s Shweta Bajaj reports from New Delhi.

India overtakes China's air pollution levels in 2015: study

Levels of hazardous PM2.5 (inhalable particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size) from India exceeded that of China in 2015 for the first time this century, a report by non-government organization Greenpeace revealed. CCTV's Shweta Bajaj reports from New Delhi.

2015 saw India witness its most polluted air ever according to a new study by Greenpeace. Researchers found it also surpassed China for the first time, in terms of the particulate matter citizens are exposed to. The Greenpeace study blames a spike in fossil fuel usage in India since 2005 for the dangerous levels of pollution.

China’s pollution levels peaked in 2011, but efforts taken in recent years achieved what researchers call “impressive improvement” in average air quality. Pollution in India, meanwhile, continued to worsen.

Fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, poses the greatest health risks because these particles can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. Between 2010 and 2015, China saw a 17 percent drop in this kind of pollution. While during the same time period, India’s PM 2.5 grew by 13 percent. India’s worst levels of pollution were found in its northern region.

To address the pollution problem, India’s government has just imposed a new tax on car sales. Delhi’s government also tried out a traffic reduction plan in January, allowing cars to operate on alternate days, depending on whether their registration ended in odd or even numbers. While traffic was reduced, its impact on pollution is debatable.

Effective or not, the city will impose the odd-even rule again for two weeks in April. Measures taken by India in the last few months have centered in the Indian capital, which experts say is far from enough.

Scientists argue that vehicles and vehicular traffic constitute a very small part of Delhi’s pollution, and that’s the reason urgent steps need to be taken including shutting power plants that are within the city, stopping the burning of wood and waste specially during winter months and also ensuring number of diesel cars on Delhi’s roads are reduced.

Last year, India also launched its Air Quality Index monitoring system, but has just 39 stations it tracks. That compares to 1500 monitoring stations in China. Experts say India needs to take a regional approach.

While it’s clear that a comprehensive plan for India is urgently needed, there is little being done in a coordinated manner. For now, India looks to remain the world’s most polluted nation. A nation where hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to die each year from pollution-related diseases.


Public Citizen Energy Program director Tyson Slocum on Indian Pollution

CCTV America’s Mike Walter spoke to Tyson Slocum, the director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

Public Citizen Energy Program director Tyson Slocum on Indian Pollution

CCTV America's Mike Walter spoke to Tyson Slocum, the director of Public Citizen's Energy Program.