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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy|| 152* US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Amritsar is currently 11.3 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
Unhealthy 152 AQI US
|Tuesday, Dec 5|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 148 AQI US
|Wednesday, Dec 6|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 145 AQI US
|Thursday, Dec 7|
Unhealthy 154 AQI US
|Friday, Dec 8|
Unhealthy 158 AQI US
|Saturday, Dec 9|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 143 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 10|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 142 AQI US
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Amritsar is a city in India, known in older times as Ramdaspur and locally as Ambarsar. It is located in the state of Punjab and is the second most populous city in the region. It is home to some culturally significant sites such as the Golden temple, a gold-plated building over 400 years old. However, even ancient holy sites such as this have been affected by the pollution in the city, with cleanups needed to protect these cultural artefacts from the growing levels of smoke and haze that not only damages the health of Amritsar's citizens, but also the appearance of its temples.
Amritsar came in with a PM2.5 reading of 47.2 μg/m³ in 2019, a considerably high reading for a yearly average, one high enough to put it into the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups bracket’, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³ to be named as such.
With this yearly reading of 47.2 μg/m³, Amritsar came in at 147th place out of all cities ranked worldwide for their pollution levels, as well as being the 51st most polluted city in the whole of India. As the name suggests, the air pollution levels would have damaging effects on those susceptible to respiratory ailments, as well as being dangerous for other groups such as young children, the elderly and pregnant mothers.
As a holy city, particularly for Sikhs, having Amritsar in such bad condition with little greenery or areas of nature left is of great concern. The air pollution finds itself arising from several different sources, one of them being the burning of open piles of refuse and garbage, which contain a number of different materials such as organic matter, plastics, rubber and metals that should all find their way into a safer form of disposal as opposed to burning.
Other sources are construction sites, constantly popping up to give new homes to the growing population as well as for hotels for people who are making pilgrimage to the city. Another source that is of great concern, particularly in the later months of the year, is that of stubble burning, which is essentially farmers setting fire to their fields to clear them for their coming harvest, as well as returning nutrients to the soil.
These are the most poignant sources of pollution in Amritsar, with of course the global issue of vehicular emissions adding the yearly ambient levels of pollution. The sum of all these sources is what is responsible for the elevated levels of smog, haze and dust that coats the walls, roads and air of Amritsar.
With the data available from the last few years, the months that show the highest readings of pollution can be listed sequentially. As with many cities in India, the months that showed the highest readings of PM2.5 were at the end of the year, with the mid months coming slightly less elevated but still with harmful readings. Amritsar was subject to an anomaly, with a relatively low PM2.5 reading in February, a month when many cities see drastically raised levels of pollution.
The most polluted month in Amritsar was November, followed by December and then October, in order of PM2.5 readings. November came in with a significantly elevated reading of 86.2 μg/m³, putting it into the higher echelons of the ‘unhealthy’ ratings bracket (55.5 to 150.4 μg/m³). Subsequently, December came in with a reading of 70.1 μg/m³, and then October with 67.1 μg/m³. All these three months were in the unhealthy ratings bracket.
Other months that displayed higher readings were March through to June, as well as September, all of which came in at the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket. The rest of the year fell into the moderate pollution bracket, albeit with some high readings that would still have the capacity to cause great harm to its citizens and pilgrims flocking there.
The cleanest month in the year of 2019 was February, with a PM2.5 reading of 14.2 μg/m³, making it only a few units away from being moved down into the ‘good’ air quality ratings bracket (10 to 12 μg/m³).
Whilst it may be far away from its target goal, with many pollutive problems being of great concern, it appears that Amritsar improved its pollution levels over the course of a year by quite a significant amount. It should be noted that initiatives previously taken were the phasing out of wood and coal burning for home use, in particular cooking and small businesses.
These were replaced by gas and electric alternatives, which had a marked effect on reducing smoke and haze being emitted from people’s homes. However as touched on briefly, there is still the problem of open burning taking place on the streets as well as the huge amount of pollution released from poorly regulated construction sites.
In 2018 Amritsar came in with a PM2.5 reading of 60.6 μg/m³, a reading that was high enough to put it into the unhealthy ratings bracket. This was followed in 2019 by the mentioned reading of 47.2 μg/m³, showing that a significant drop in numbers was reported. However, there may be data anomalies affecting these readings, as lack of pollution recordings in times past may have led to data only being collected in the latter part of 2018, thus affecting the pollution readings and leading to the much higher number. It will only be in the year of 2020 and beyond that will show as to whether Amritsar is making and noticeable improvements in its pollution levels. But for now, it has shown that a great improvement was made over the course of a year.
As touched on briefly, the removal of wood and coal taking place in home burning went a long way to help reduce smoke accumulations in the city, thanks to the Management Committee Golden Temple (SGPC) playing a part in this. Further helpful initiatives would be the stamping out of the fires taking place on the streets, with the introduction of stricter laws and fines for those caught offending. Without the implantation of punishment and proper enforcement, it will be hard for these practices to be fully extinguished.
Others would include more stringent regulations on vehicle, such as their age and engine quality, as well as the fuels they run on. Lastly, with the many construction sites popping up around the city, a stricter set of rules regarding the proper maintenance of them would go a long way in reducing dust, heavy metal and other pollutants being released from these sites, if Amritsar is to see the marked improvements that it needs.