Thursday, March 29, 2012

Air Pollution in Chennai, India

The Hindu, March 28th, 2012

City's pollution level is thrice that of what the global body permits

Findings of a recent study have shown that suspended particulate matter (SPM) levels in the city far exceed national standards and those set by the World Health Organisation.

“While the national annual ambient average for particulate matter is 60 microgram per cubic metre, the WHO standard is 20 microgram per cubic metre. Measured emissions in Chennai, however, range between 60 and 120 microgram per cubic metre,” said Sarath Guttikunda, co-director of UrbanEmissions.Info, which conducted the study. He was speaking at a workshop — ‘Air quality and co-benefits with a focus on Chennai' — here on Tuesday.

There was a need to monitor petrol stations as even small leaks would have a bearing on the levels of volatile organic compounds, he said. “Around 600 brick kilns situated 30-40 km away from the city also add to the emissions. They must be modernised to prevent adding to the city's pollution load.”

The study, conducted in six Indian cities — Pune, Indore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot — was not just about emission levels but also about the health impacts on residents. In 2010, the six cities accounted for an estimated annual figure of 15,200 premature deaths due to exposure to air pollution that was above the WHO guidelines. Mr. Guttikunda explained that these levels are very significant and comparable to the levels being experienced in cities across Asia.

Rajesh Rangarajan of, Centre for Development Finance, said that there was a need for more monitoring stations in the city and areas newly added to it. “Suspended particulate matter levels have been high irrespective of the type of location, season or activity pattern. More stations would mean a clearer picture of the pollution levels and the kind of pollutants. The level of nitrous oxides has remained at almost a constant state. This needs to be looked at,” he said.

Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board Deputy Director (Labs) V. Chandrasekar said improving public transport would help reduce nitrous oxides. He said that proposals have been submitted for the installation of monitoring equipment at 10 traffic intersections and also for more ambient air monitoring stations in the recently expanded areas of the city.

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