Meerut city serves as the administrative center for the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. It’s an ancient city, with settlements dating back to the Indus Valley culture located nearby. In addition, the city is a prominent educational center in western Uttar Pradesh. The city has the second-highest population density in the National Capital Region (NCR). The city is roughly 70 kilometers from India’s capital, New Delhi. With a population of 1,305,429, this city is an example of urban agglomeration.
Meerut city is now a key distribution hub for different agricultural products like sugarcane, food grains, and so on, owing to its position and setting, proximity to the national capital, and strong agricultural activity in the surrounding region. It is the country’s largest maker of musical instruments and one of the leading providers of sporting products. Meerut is home to several large-scale enterprises.
Despite the numerous data indicating the city’s prominence in the region, it faces the problems of unplanned and spontaneous expansion. Infrastructural deficiencies in practically all areas, along with a disproportionately high poverty class population, hinder the city’s growth potential. However, the city has inherent potentials such as a vibrant trade and commerce sector and cottage industry, rich agricultural land and favorable geographical conditions surrounding the city areas, numerous higher education institutes, adequate skilled and semi-skilled labor force, proximity to Delhi, and so on.
According to the 2001 Census, Meerut has gained the status of a metropolitan city, i.e. a city with a population of one million or more. In precise words, the population was 11.61 lakhs, less than 5.5 lakhs in 1981, and approximately 8.5 lakhs till 1991. During the decades 1951-1961 and 1961-1971, the city’s population expanded by 23.14 percent and 26.08 percent, respectively. Between 1971 and 2001, the city’s population increased at a rate that topped 58 percent in the 1970s, when Meerut’s population growth outpaced the national average.
Natural growth, in-migration, and population increase owing to jurisdictional changes are the three primary components of growth composition. In-migration is the most significant contributor to population growth in Meerut, accounting for roughly 73 percent of overall growth and 20 percent of the total population during the previous decade.
The image below depicts the built-unbuilt connection in the city, as well as a fundamental grasp of the urban platform and built mass in rural regions. According to the NCR plan 2021, a rise in urbanizable land has been indicated, resulting in a reduction in rural infrastructure and an increase in the urban fabric. This illustration depicts the region’s agricultural premise being reduced as a result of massive growth.
Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) levels were much over the acceptable limit of 200 ug/m3 according to ambient air quality assessments conducted at Thana Road Junction. The highest SPM values were discovered in February. Meerut has a huge industrial establishment that is also accountable for adding to the city’s pollution levels in some way. Meerut contains 40 polluting businesses in the form of slaughterhouses, dyeing industries, meat processing companies, and so on.
Due to inadequate supply and an unbalanced distribution of water, the city confronts urban infrastructure disorder. The city’s risk profile is heightened by its reliance on UG sources of water and rising ground contamination. The lack of coverage of the UG sewer network, inefficient usage, and inadequate maintenance have resulted in very unsanitary conditions in the majority of metropolitan districts. The disposal of untreated or inadequately treated sewage exacerbates the problem.
Meerut’s pollution sources vary between its agricultural and industrial periphery and its urbanized core. Tobacco smoke, home stoves, motor vehicles, and agricultural activities on the outskirts, as well as dusty construction sites, are key sources of air pollution in this city. The city’s outskirts are infected by local industrial piles and agricultural emissions, with a significant contribution from sites in Delhi and other polluted regions of the Delhi-NCR. In contrast, the city’s core urban agglomeration faces the accumulation and increased concentration of these pollutants into compactly scattered and densely populated residential neighborhoods, with year-round traffic pollution and minor industrial operations contributing significantly.
Vehicular pollution is another major issue in Meerut, and being a historic city, the city’s road infrastructure is not optimal for smooth traffic flow and has to be improved. Meerut was created in an organic framework, with several regional roads flowing through it. Begum Bridge connects the Delhi-Roorkee route, the Meerut-Baghpat road, the Meerut-Bijnor road, and the Meerut-Garh road. All main state/regional/national highways pass through the city’s central business center. As a result, the city has evolved an organic concentric circulation network model.
Meerut’s pollution levels are 2-4 times higher than the allowable limit. Outer Meerut, which is greener and has more open space, is impacted by industrial stack emissions as well as ambient air pollution from other sources in Delhi and the NCR. Inner Meerut has a significant concentration and accumulation of pollutants, which are concentrated in densely populated residential areas. Even in parks and gardens, people are kept close to the sources. Vehicle emissions are the single most significant man-made source of pollution that persists throughout the year.
Furthermore, many outdated and more polluting automobiles that are no longer permitted in Delhi are freely utilized in smaller towns such as Meerut. In these tiny cities, the focus is less on rule enforcement. For example, despite a ban prohibiting heavy commercial vehicles from operating inside the city boundaries during daylight hours, several trucks generating soot-laden smoke were spotted operating on Meerut’s roadways. Similarly, while all public transportation in Delhi, including auto-rickshaws, buses, and privately run minibusses, taxis, and share-rickshaws, is required to use cleaner CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), in Meerut, just 50 kilometers from Delhi’s borders, all of these vehicles are required to use diesel.
Parking problems, both organized and unorganized, could be found in the following city areas: both sides of Begum Bridge Road up to Eves Chowraha, both sides of Sadar bazaar, Sarrfa Market, PL Sharma Road up to court complex, both sides of Shastri Marg, inroads near Budhana Gate, Khair Nagar Market, Old Gantaghar Area, Eastern and Western Kachehri Road, Bhaghpat Road, the area around Kabari Bazaar, Shard.
The attention of civil society and the media on air pollution in Delhi has increased significantly in recent years. On the other hand, less attention is devoted to pollution in several of India’s smaller cities. It permits complacency to seep in, which, when paired with a false sense of security in the idea that “our city isn’t as terrible as Delhi,” leads to inactivity on air pollution.
Proposed actions were taken by the stakeholders
The UPPCB intends to conduct a study to develop a plan for the development of Green Infrastructures in Meerut’s Non-Attainment Cities, taking into account environmental and economic feasibility, as well as providing Standard Operating Procedures for all types of suitable GIs in a cost-effective manner for overall city environmental improvement, with a focus on the reduction of air pollution and particulate matter. The proposed research includes the formulation of a strategy for the development of GIs in 16 Uttar Pradesh NACs, including Meerut.
One such practice that the UPPCB is implementing across the state is the self-disclosure audit sheet by infrastructure projects, which is one of the major causes of dust emission. Furthermore, the state has adopted a one-of-a-kind methodology known as Miyawaki’s method for urban afforestation and boosting total green cover by cultivating native plant species in a relatively short period, hence reducing air pollution in the long term.
UPPCB has already signed a tripartite agreement with the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur to receive technical assistance on various aspects of air quality management in 15 non-attainment cities identified under the National Clean Air Programme. Under the principles of green skill development, the UPPCB wants to create the “Paryavaran Prahari” program, in which persons would be taught to disseminate the role of a common citizen in pollution control and action plan execution. Individuals may also be trained to increase their participation/services in monitoring pollution sources when applicable.