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According to the lastest report released by the World Health Organization, Lucknow is one of the most polluted cities in India. Moreover, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities are in India, with Kanpur topping the list of 4300 places. The other cities are Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Varanasi, Delhi, Lucknow, Muzaffarpur, Agra, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala, and Jodhpur. Beijing, which was once the most polluted city across the world, is not there even among the top 20 most polluted cities.

In this report we bring to you a case study of how Lucknow became one of the most polluted cities of the world. Lucknow is the capital city and pride of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh which has a population of 2.82 million (Municipal Corporation and Cantonment) as per the census held in 2011. The Air Pollution means the contamination of the air. As per section 2(a) of Air(Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1981 air pollution has been defined as, “ any solid, liquid or gaseous substance (including noise) present in atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property of environment.”

The change in the demographic graph of Lucknow has been detected to accelerate rapidly. According to Census 2001; the total population found to be 36,47,834 and in Census 2011 the total population of Lucknow found to be 45,89,838. There was change of 25.82 percent in the population compared to population as per 2001. In the previous census of India 2001, Lucknow District recorded increase of 32.03 percent to its population compared to 1991.

Clean air is a primary requirement for the healthy survival of humans. As a consequence of urban development along with energy sector ; vehicular emission has led to the rise of particulate matters. Besides this, there is one more reason for the increasing air pollution and which is the increase of the deforestation rate in Lucknow to build parks, malls and highways which has increased the rate of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It was stated by the MoEF that if a 50 years old tree is cut its value is 50,000 rupees while if it left standing it will value at 25 lakhs. The actual forest cover in Lucknow is about 115 square kilometers i.e. less than 5% of total area of Lucknow (2500 sq km) in 2015. While in 2013-2014 assessment by Envis Centre Uttar Pradesh the forest cover of Lucknow was found to be 321 square kilometers i.e. 12.7% of total geographical area of Lucknow. It has been revealed that to build the Agra-Lucknow Greenfield Express Highways; more than 27,000 trees were axed.(TIMES OF INDIA 28 January,2015) There is large scale felling of trees along the Raebareli Road to widened the roads and accommodate an increasing number of vehicles.

Reasons for Lucknow’s air pollution

Human behavior over the last few decades has changed the global atmospheric condition. The emissions from automobiles, industrial activities, urban development, intensification of agricultural practices has escalated the levels of the harmful gases like CO2, CO, SO2, NO and Particulate Matter(PM) which is changing the condition of the atmosphere and in turn harming us.

The study aimed at assessing the rate of air pollution in Lucknow with the focus on the Particulate Matter 10, Particulate Matter 2.5, Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide. The reasons for studying the above mentioned gases in detail is that these gases are major source of air pollution and U.P Pollution Board monitors the level of these particular pollutants in atmosphere. The study also reveals the major cause of air pollution in Lucknow; the areas of Lucknow which are severely under threat of air pollution and studies the tracking mechanisms which have been set up; lack of equipment and the reason behind the same, with some focus on the initiatives for awareness among Lucknowis on air pollution.

The study accounts the data of the last three months i.e. of January, February, March, April, and May 2018 and the comparison to evaluate the increasing levels of pollution from last years. The data has been collected from the U.P Pollution Control Board.


Forest 1990 (ha) 63,939,000

Forest 2000 (ha) 67,554,000

Forest 2005 (ha) 67,701,000

Annual Change 1990-2000 (ha | %) 361,500 0.57%

Annual Change 2000-2005 (ha | %) 29,400 0.04%

Total Change 1990-2005 (ha | %) 3,762,000 5.88%
Change in rate (%) -92.30%


Power plants as well as industries are stationary sources of pollutants, affecting air quality in a limited area, while vehicles being mobile pollute the atmosphere to a large extent. Gases emitted from vehicles are carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxide, suspended particulate matters, hydrocarbons, and lead. In the year 2013 too, Lucknow was ranked as the top most polluted city of India.

How Lucknow became one of India’s dirtiest cities: Air Pollution Study

How Lucknow became one of India’s dirtiest cities: Air Pollution Study

The main causes of air pollution in Lucknow are the following:-

• Vehicular emissions and day-by-day increasing private vehicles on the road.
• Rapid urbanization at the expense of greenery.
• Industries surrounding Lucknow.
• Unconsciousness and apathy of the government and public toward this problem.
• Burning wood for fuel purposes.
• Burning of the garbage.

Literature Review for Lucknow air pollution

Air Pollution is now one of the most common occurring factor, threatening human health to a great extent.

• Air quality of Lucknow according to analysis of last nine years air quality data shows a more or less stable trend for SO2 and a declining trend for NO2, both lying within the NAAQS. For PM10 increasing trend is seen which exceeds NAAQS. (As per CPCB,2012 report)
• As per report of WHO,2014 the annual concentration of PM10 was 219ug/m3
• As per December, 2015 AQI of Lucknow was 489. The AQI between 401 and 500 is the severe call for the human health hazard.

There is a high fluctuation rate in PM2.5. According to the study, fluctuation of the PM depends upon the wind speed and humidity of the area. If the wind speed is less than 0.3 metre/second, it leads to concentration of particulate matter. Similarly, if humidity is high, particulate matter becomes heavy, and remains suspended in the air, thus causing pollution. As per the record of December 2015 in the Talkatora station PM2.5 recorded alarmingly high levels on intervening night of 9 December 2015 and 10 December 2015 Thursday. The highest value was 15,080 microgram per cubic metre recorded at 2.30am on Thursday. At 11.30 pm Wednesday, PM2.5 was recorded to be at 12,641 microgram per cubic metre. The national ambient air quality standard for PM2.5 is 60 microgram per cubic metre and for PM10 is 100 microgram per cubic metre.

According to environment expert Venkatesh Dutta, “There is heavy dust load on Lucknow’s air. The city is in transition, with a lot of construction activities, metro work, and smoke from brick kilns polluting the air. The dispersion of pollutants will take time.” According to CPCB, the concentration of PM2.5 in Lucknow was seven times higher than the permissible limit of 60 micrograms/cubic metre, set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. (TOI Nov 2016).

Average Pollution Level in 2015 in Lucknow

How Lucknow became India's most polluted city

How Lucknow became India’s most polluted city

Figure 1
Figure1:The graph is representing the average PM2.5 emission in 2015 in Lucknow. The estimate PM2.5 by WHO is 10 while that of Yearly National Standard is 40. And the emission growth is from 90 to 290 which is a sky scraping emission and hazardous to human health.

Figure 2

How Lucknow became India's most polluted city

How Lucknow became India’s most polluted city

Figure 2: The data of the pie chart is shown as that on 5th June 2015. The pie chart is demonstrating the PM2.5 of different places of Lucknow.

As per the data recorded in May 2018 (1 May 2018), the PM2.5 of most polluted places of Lucknow are:-

Figure 3
Figure 3: This figure is showing the PM2.5 in the three crowded places of Lucknow in May 2018 (May 1, 2018).

Good (minimal impact)
Satisfactory (minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people.)
Moderate (breathing discomfort to the people with lung, heart disease, children and older adult)

The other air pollutants that too detected as hazardous for the human and for the stable functioning of the ecosystem are Ozone, Oxides of nitrogen, Oxides of Sulphur, Carbon Monoxide.
Air Quality Index of different areas of the Lucknow

Lalbagh, West Lucknow, Lucknow: Real Time Area Air Quality Index AQI
Temp:33 degree centigrade
222 Very Unhealthy

Pollutants + Atmospheric Conditions Recorded Data Minimum Data Maximum Data

PM2.5 222 ug/m 158 222
Ozone 6ug/m 2 23
Nitrogen Dioxide 57ug/m 16 61
Sulphur Dioxide 8ug/m 1 8
Carbon Monoxide 18ug/m 2 27
Temperature 33 23 42
Pressure 1003 atm 1001 atm 1009 atm
Humidity 41 14 63

Central School, Lucknow: Real Time Area Air Quality Index AQI
Temp:33 degree centigrade
120 Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
Pollutants+Atmospheric Conditions Recorded Data Minimum Data Maximum Data

PM2.5 120 51 182
Ozone 13 3 82
Nitrogen Dioxide 14 12 39
Sulphur Dioxide 2 0 4
Carbon Monoxide 12 0 25
Temperature 33 23 28
Pressure 755 747 756
Humidity 69 39 99

To be concluded:
By Geetika Saluja, Public Relationship Manager at Greenpeace International

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Geetika Saluja

About Geetika Saluja

Geetika Saluja is a budding environmentalist, who is actively engaged in environmental studies and research. She is an alumni from Lucknow University, completing master's degree in Environmental Science. She has conducted case studies on different issues related to environment, climate, energy and remote sensing. She has been associated with Greenpeace International. Geetika Saluja has promoted environmental issues, campaigns and raising funds for them. She has conducted extensive studies on “Flood Inundation and Change Detection In 10 Km Buffer Along River Ganga In Varanasi District, Uttar Pradesh. She is a Public Relationship Manager at Greenpeace International.