HYDERABAD: The World Air Quality Report 2021 by IQAir has found Hyderabad to be among the most polluted cities in India seeing a concerning rise in particulate matter (PM 2.5) levels from 34.7 ug/m3 in 2020 to 39.4 ug/m3 in 2021.
This makes it the fourth most polluted city in India after Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. While not mentioning specifically what has led to the rise in particulate pollution in Hyderabad, the report suggests India’s rising vehicular pollution is the culprit. It notes, “It is estimated that 20% to 35% of total urban PM2.5 concentrations is directly or indirectly due to internal combustion engines in motor vehicles. Annual vehicle sales in India are expected to increase, with an estimated fleet number reaching 10.5 million in 2030.”
This can be directly seen as one of the leading factors for pollution in Hyderabad as recent data from the State Transport Department stipulated vehicles in Telangana to be at a staggering 1.45 crore of which 60 lakh were in Hyderabad district itself. Shockingly 90% of these are personal vehicles. It is also a well documented fact that while on the one hand the personal vehicle population is growing by leaps and bounds, the public transport corporation Telangana State Road Transport Corporation has removed nearly 800 buses from its operations in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation limits owing to lack of funding from the government. It may also be noted here that the word "pollution" found no mention in the 2022 budget speech by the Telangana Finance Minister, showing how the subject gets hardly any attention at policy levels. The only mention it found was in terms of providing a pollution allowance for the traffic police.
The pollution issue is not limited to Hyderabad. A recent answer tabled in the Lok Sabha on 21st March stated that four areas in Telangana have been categorized as non-attainment cities under the National Clean Air Programme by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The districts of Hyderabad, Nalgonda, Patancheru and Sangareddy come under this categorisation.
As per the data placed before the Parliament, Hyderabad was among the 31 cities out of 132 non-attainment metropolitan cities where PM 10 concentration had seen an increase in 2020-21 as against 2019-20.
In 2019-20, Hyderabad’s average PM 10 was 86 points which increased to 88 in 2020-21. In the same way, Nalgonda’s average concentration increased from 59 to 60.
“We understand better than ever before how air pollution damages our health and economies. This report is a wakeup call, revealing how people worldwide are denied access to clean air. Addressing the air pollution crisis requires the development of renewable energy resources and clean-powered, accessible public transport. Moreover, solutions to air pollution are also solutions to the climate crisis. Breathing clean air should be a basic human right, not a privilege,” said Avinash Chanchal, Campaign Manager at Greenpeace India.
Pollution levels (PM 2.5) in 2021
Highest pollution seen in month of December- 68.4
Lowest pollution seen in month of July -12
Yearly average- 39.4
Most polluted phase- October to April