Meghalaya’s Byrnihat most polluted ‘city’ in India

News Excerpt:

Recently, according to data released by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Meghalaya’s Byrnihat, an industrial town on the border with Assam, was the most polluted ‘city’ in India during February.

About Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA):

  • CREA is an independent research organisation, registered as a nonprofit in Finland, with staff across Asia and Europe. 
  • It is focused on revealing the trends, causes, and health impacts, as well as the solutions to air pollution.
    • It uses scientific data, research and evidence to support the efforts of governments, companies and campaigning organisations worldwide in their efforts to move towards clean energy and clean air.  
  • CREA’s work is funded through philanthropic grants and revenue from commissioned research.
  • This recent study based on the monthly average of (particulate matter) PM2.5, has put the spotlight on hazardous air pollution levels in urban centres across the States in the northeast.

Key findings of the report:

  • According to the CREA report, Byrnihat recorded a monthly average PM2.5 concentration of 183 µg/m3, which was around 60 µg/m3 higher than in Bihar’s Araria, the second-most polluted city in the country.
  • Hapur in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh were the third and the fourth most polluted cities.
  • The PM2.5 levels in Byrnihat were also almost 1.8 times the PM2.5 concentration recorded for Delhi for the same period, which was the 14th most polluted city in India for February 2024.
  • The other urban centres in the northeast (NE) which made it to the list of 30 most polluted cities in India in February were: Nalbari (5th), Agartala (12th), Guwahati (19th), and Nagaon (28th), highlighting the worsening pollution levels across the region.
  • Out of 11 cities with continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations in the northeastern States, six recorded PM2.5 levels beyond the prescribed daily National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • There was a significant improvement in air quality in February with 36 cities falling into the ‘good’ category. 
    • This was 14 more than the 22 ‘good’ urban centres in January.
  • The ‘satisfactory” category also saw a substantial increase to 124 cities from 77 in January. 
    • The count of cities in the ‘moderate’ category decreased to 66 from 84 in January.
  • The notable declines were observed in the ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ categories, with 24 and three cities respectively, down from 39 and 31 in January.
    • The drop in pollutant concentrations is attributed to improving wind speed and rising temperatures, along with other meteorological factors, and some reduction in emissions across different cities.
  • A total of 59 cities were featured in the daily most polluted cities list in February and 23 of those featured at least five times during the 29-day period.
  • Sivasagar, Silchar, Aizawl, and Imphal recorded monthly average PM2.5 concentrations below the NAAQS and were the cleanest cities in the NE region.
    • Sivasagar was the second cleanest city in India, followed by Silchar from the area at the 23rd spot. 
  • The cleanest was Satna in Madhya Pradesh and the third cleanest was Vijayapura in Karnataka.
  • According to CREA, none of the cities complied with the WHO-safe guideline concentrations for PM2.5.

Significance of the report:

  • The data emphasise the pressing need for significantly bolstering air quality monitoring in the north-eastern States to track air pollution levels effectively.
  • The study underscores the urgent need for action to address air quality in the northeast.
  • It reveals concerns about pollution levels in urban centres, emphasizing the critical importance of clean energy and air quality regulations in NE. 


The report by CREA highlights the alarming pollution levels in Byrnihat and other cities in the northeast, stressing the need for immediate action. It underscores the importance of robust air quality monitoring and the implementation of clean energy solutions. The improvements in some cities indicate the positive impact of environmental measures, encouraging continued efforts to combat air pollution.

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