Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Air Pollution in Ahmedabad

Silent Killers - This might be the best city to live in India but there are a few black spots that need to be dealt with. One contentious issue is pollution.

Link to the article @ Times of India

Contrary to popular belief, vehicular pollution on city roads and industries emitting black smoke from chimneys are not the only pollutants. According to researchers, there are many more 'culprits' that pollute the air we breathe. Even a brick kiln located outside Bopal or a power plant in Gandhinagar will be capable of polluting the city's ambient air quality.

These are silent pollutants which emit particulate matter of less than 10 micrometers in size (PM10). Power plants, dusty roads and brick kilns are some of the other pollutants.

These factors were highlighted by a study named 'Urban air pollution and co-benefits analysis in India' published recently for six Indian cities, including Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Pune, Indore and Chennai.

The study was conducted by New Delhi-based research group UrbanEmissions.Info to understand the sources of air pollution in these cities and also projected pollution rate in 2020. As per the study, all six cities exceed the annual ambient standard of 60 ug/ m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) of PM10.

In 2003, the city was branded as the most polluted in the country. Since then many changes have been made like introduction of CNG autorickshaws and BRTS. But, the PM10 threat is yet to be addressed effectively. The researchers say that BRTS and its cycle track could hold the key to resolving this issue in future.

Sarath Guttikunda, founder of UrbanEmissions.Info who also developed statistical tools for the project told TOI, "Ahmedabad has a high level of PM10. Here, pollution comes from a variety of sources - power plants and brick kilns surrounding the district. We often believe that vehicles moving in immediate surroundings contribute to the pollution in cities. However, a plant or a kiln away from the city can also affect Ahmedabad considering the wind direction."

Guttikunda added, "While Chennai has almost the same size and more industries, sea breeze blows PM10 away from the city, reducing the suspended particulates in the air. Going by the PM10 levels in Ahmedabad, the estimated premature deaths due to pollution is likely to be 4,950 as compared to 3,950 in Chennai."

The Pollutants

The five main pollutants responsible for majority of the health hazards in Indian cities are particulates (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3). According to the study, consequences of exposure to these pollutants range from premature mortality to aggravated morbidity effects such as respiratory problems, asthma, chronic bronchitis and oxygen deficiency in blood.

The Solution

As per the study, the need of the hour is an air quality management plan which looks at a mix of policies to promote public transport, walking and cycling, improve efficiencies of industries, power plants, and brick kilns, and controls dust on the roads, for better air quality in the cities.

The study also highlighted the fact that a better transport system such as BRTS and less dependency on open burning for cooking or waste disposal is expected to reduce pollutants in air. While Ahmedabad emitted 35,100 tons of PM10, it is expected to decrease a bit in a decade and reach to 31,800 in 2020, says the study

Update: December, 2012

A journal article is now published in the Atmospheric Environment

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