A small town. An undulating river. Patches of green cover. A blue sky above. The romanticised idea of smaller urban settings is often far removed from the trappings of a bigger metropolis—the din and bustle, bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main road, the pollution. But are smaller towns tucked away in the hinterland are as clean we imagine them to be. Here is a reality check.
On December 3, the air quality index (AQI) recorded at Buxar, a town on the banks of Ganga in western Bihar, was a staggering 427. Biharsharif, another small town near the ancient cities of Rajgir and Nalanda, fared no better at 407. On the same day, the AQI of Sasaram and Bettiah was 394 and 387 respectively—all above Delhi’s ‘very poor’ air quality at 346. In fact, of 11 worst-hit cities listed under ‘very poor’ to ‘severe’ category on the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) bulletin for the day, all except one were in Bihar.