Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Air Pollution in the Kashmir Valley

Take a walk down a city road and you would at once feel dust and soot clogging your throat and stinging your eyes. From your hair to clothes a coat of dust would blanket you in such a way that you would become hard to recognize even to the members of your family. It is no wonder that chest disease specialists are finding themselves very busy with more and more patients approaching them with complaints of asthma, cough that refuses to go away. Young children, more vulnerable to such noxious fumes and dust, are being diagnosed with asthma.

To get a feel of the kind of pollutants that hang in the air we breathe in daily in the city or other major towns, we turned to the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) to get a sense of the damage we suffer. Mohammad Shafi Keenu is the regional director for Kashmir and if he is the one you depended on to warn about the damage to the health and environment from pollution, you might want to find a different source to appraise you about the ill-effects of pollutants in the environment.

Keenu seems to have a standard in his mind with which to measure the level of pollution in the Kashmir valley. He is prone to say we’re still far away from high pollution seen in Indian cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. This is the type of knowledge an elementary school student would share with you. What Keenu’s imagination fails to comprehend is the damage the rising level of pollution can cause to the fragile environment of Kashmir. According to him, the SPCB has installed four air monitoring devices in Srinagar, Khanmoh, Khrew and Lasjan areas. The devices record the levels of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) and Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM). The results, according to Keenu, are not that bad to cause a concern.

The SPCB’s own data makes Keenu’s boast seem more shallow. For example, in the Khanmoh area, the amount of RSPM recorded in February 2015 was 93.33 micrograms per cubic metre (mg/m3) whereas a year later in February 2016, the same increased to 132.67 mg/m3. Anything over 60 mg/m3 is seriously detrimental to your health. Similarly in the Khrew area, the amount of RSPM recorded in February 2015 was 85.10 mg/m3 and the same jumped up to 127 mg/m3 in January 2016.

If only one cared to look closely at the official data about pollutants in the air, we would have a good picture of the kind of challenge we are confronting. The data pin points the source of the rising level of pollution in Kashmir: increasing number of vehicles on the roads, stone crushers and factories. There are thirteen cement factories belching out smoke and dust in the air and, with demand for cement rising, it is feared it would get worse over time. For years, people living in the vicinity of these cement factories, along with many experts, have been raising a voice about the ill-effects of the pollutants released by the factories in the air, but nobody seems to heed these warnings.

Read the full article @ the Kashmir Monitor

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