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World Bank Report on Air Pollution


On December 14, 2022, the World Bank released a report titled 'Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia'.

Background

  • Persistently hazardous levels of air pollution have caused public health crises in South Asia demanding urgent action.
  • Using a modelling approach over South Asia as a whole, the WB report lays out multiple scenarios and costs involved in reducing the region’s exposure to particulate matter (PM).

Key Highlights of the Report

  • Over 60% of South Asians are exposed to an average of 35 µg/m3 of PM2.5.
  • In some parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) it spiked to as much as 100 µg/m3nearly 20 times the upper limit of 5 µg/m3 recommended by the WHO.
  • According to a World Bank report, India has six large Airsheds, some of them shared with Pakistan, between which air pollutants move. They are:
    1. West/Central Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) that included Punjab (Pakistan), Punjab (India), Haryana, part of Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh.
    2. Central/Eastern IGP: Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bangladesh
    3. Middle India: Odisha/Chhattisgarh
    4. Middle India: Eastern Gujarat/Western Maharashtra
    5. Northern/Central Indus River Plain: Pakistan, part of Afghanistan; and
    6. Southern Indus Plain and further west: South Pakistan, Western Afghanistan extending into Eastern Iran.
  • When the wind direction was predominantly northwest to the southeast, 30% of the air pollution in Indian Punjab came from the Punjab Province in Pakistan and, on average, 30% of the air pollution in the largest cities of Bangladesh (Dhaka, Chittagong, and Khulna) originated in India.

What are Airsheds?

  • The World Bank defines an airshed as a common geographic area where pollutants get trapped, creating similar air quality for everyone.
  • The concept is demonstrated by a 2019 study that found approximately half of the population-weighted PM2.5 in Delhi comes from outside the territory, of which 50% is from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Major sources of Air Pollution in South Asia

  • Large industries, power plants and vehicles are dominant sources of air pollution around the world;
    • But in South Asia, other sources make substantial additional contributions.
    • These include combustion of solid fuels for cooking and heating, emissions from small industries such as brick kilns, burning of municipal and agricultural waste, and cremation.
  • Air pollution travels long distances— crossing municipal, state, and national boundaries—and gets trapped in large “airsheds” that are shaped by climatology and geography.

Indian Efforts to curb Air Pollution

  • The National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) (2019) aims to reduce (40% over 2017 levels by 2025-26) air pollution in 131 of India’s most polluted cities.
  • The government of India has set aside $1.7 billion to fight air pollution over the next five years, as per the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission.
  • (SAFAR) Portal: SAFAR is a national initiative introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city.
  • Air Quality Index: AQI has been developed for eight pollutants viz. PM2.5, PM10, Ammonia, Lead, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.
  • Parliament has approved to the establishment of the Commission of Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas.
  • The clean air action plan is implemented across the states with guidelines from WB.