The city beautiful, the first planned city of India, with a focus on urban greenery, was included in the non-attainment cities under National Clean Air Programme. And yet, recently, Chandigarh also recorded poor air quality, even worse than Delhi, for a few days.
Experts said community perceptions play a vital role in determining how individuals respond to air pollution and related policies. As understanding people’s level of consciousness, actions, and attitudes toward air pollution is necessary, Prof Ravindra Khaiwal from Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGI), Pooja Parihar, and Dr Suman Mor, department of environment studies, examined the community perception of air pollution, willingness to pay and awareness about health risks in Chandigarh with a questionnaire based-survey. The study is recently published in Environmental Challenges, a reputed peer-reviewed international journal by Elsevier.
The study assessed the levels and correlations between people's perceptions of air pollution and its associated health risk before and during Covid-19. The study highlights that 80% of respondents were aware and worried about the city’s air quality. Also, 55 % of study participants believed that pollution levels increase as the day progresses, especially in the afternoon. The perception of automobile emissions as the prime source of air pollution was reported by 40% of study participants, in addition to mentioned other sources, such as industrial pollution, dust, agricultural emissions and aviation emissions. On assessing the air quality perception and respondent’s happiness as a place to live, participants' happiness was found to be strongly correlated with their neighbourhood as a place to live with their opinion of the air quality.
The study also evaluated the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics and people's awareness of air pollution, attitudes, and health implications. Respondents in the younger age group were found to be more aware of air pollution. This might be because younger people living in cities or working in factories are exposed to poor air quality Respondents believed that air pollution exposure is associated with respiratory and chest disorders. A linear correlation was established between people's willingness to improve air quality and their awareness. The attitudes and behaviours of individuals toward air pollution revealed that they were willing to pay to reduce air pollution.
Prof Khaiwal said, “Community perceptions play a vital role in the understanding of people’s level of knowledge and attitudes towards air pollution, which can be used for effective policy-making having community participation and acceptance.” He said, “We also found that 50% of the people were unware of the location of the air quality monitors installed in the city.”