India's Heatwaves Turn Deadlier With Unusually High Air Pollution
Seasonal particulate matter 2.5 levels in north, central, east, and west India were all higher than the previous summer.
India's air pollution is not just making its winters worse. The nation's summer heatwaves also turned deadlier with higher-than-normal levels of particulate matter.
"The summer of 2022 has not only been unusually hot but also uncharacteristically high on particulate pollution, especially north India," the Centre for Science and Environment said in a new analysis. "The summer pollution challenge is not limited to megacities or to one specific region; it is a widespread national problem that requires urgent and deliberate action at a national scale."
Air pollution is generally seen as a winter problem when cold weather traps air pollution and smog close to the ground. These conditions are not found during summer as warm air rises and carries pollutants away. That, however, was not the case this year.
Seasonal particulate matter 2.5 levels in north, central, east and west India were all higher than the previous summer. North India fared the worst with a 23% increase in average summer pollution, followed by central India at 15.6%. South India saw no change, while northeast India saw average air quality improve between March and May.
Another worrying trend noted was smaller towns, and not megacities, are becoming pollution hotspots.
Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, Manesar in Haryana, Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Rohtak in Haryana and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh were the five states with the worst summer air quality this year.
Delhi-NCR continued to have the worst regional air. It had 12 of the cities in the top 20 with highest summer pollution levels. The particulate matter 2.5 levels in the NCR region were almost 3 times the average of cities in south India.
Aizawl in Mizoram and Gummipondi in Tamil Nadu were the least polluted cities.
"This analysis identifies the unique patterns of pollution across all regions and puts a spotlight on a large number of towns and cities that do not get policy attention," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy at CSE.
"Summer particulate pollution spikes due to arid conditions, high summer heat and temperature, and more airborne dust particles that travel long distances are compounding the problem from local sources,” she said in a statement.
Significant tightening of action is required to control emissions from each pollution source, Roychowdhury said.