Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chennai City Needs More Monitoring Stations

Times of India, March 28th, 2012

CHENNAI: The air you breathe could be much more polluted than the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) would have you believe.

A group of environment agencies, which collected data for over a year, says the board does not have
enough stations to monitor ambient air quality in Chennai. The few existing stations are in the wrong places and do not provide an accurate picture of the rising pollution levels. There are no monitors, for example, near the city's highly polluted dumping yards at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi.

At a workshop to analyze urban air quality of Chennai organized by the Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR) and Urban Emissions.Info, experts pointed out that Chennai's air pollution levels were among the worst in the country but the city lacked a proper system to monitor the problem.

 Rajesh Rangarajan, project lead of IFMR's India Pollution Map, said monitoring by the pollution control board should be extended to the suburban areas. "Emission sources like dumpsites also need to be monitored for a better understanding of pollution in the city," Rangarajan said.

He said the board had not installed pollution recording meters in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur despite complaints by the thousands of families living in these areas over air being filled with smoke from burning garbage.

Chennai has five ambient air quality monitoring stations run by the TNPCB. Experts say these stations do not record figures that properly reflect even air pollution levels of the neighbourhoods in which they are located because they have been set up on streets with low traffic density.

Chitra Grace, a senior epidemiologist with the Indian Council of Medical Research, said pollution monitoring standards should be revised regularly because new pollutants can enter urban environments.

"The current PM10 (particulate pollution) standard has to be revised. We should also analyze the levels of benzene and other dangerous pollutants," she said.

UrbanEmissions.Info co-director Sarath Guttikunda said the city needed at least twice as many pollution monitoring stations. "Pollution data should be made public to help residents understand the seriousness of the issue," he said.

TNPCB deputy director V Chandrasekar said 10 ambient air quality meters would soon be installed at major traffic intersections and five each in other cities and towns in the state.

"We have also proposed three mobile air pollution monitoring stations that are pending government clearance," he said. He said better coordination between various government departments would improve urban air quality.

"We need a system in which information is shared between government departments," Chandrasekar said.


Anonymous said...

Suckers burn the garbage dump in perungudi and major areas of mandipakkam and velachery are fully covered with smoke. Is noone complaining.

Sarath Guttikunda said...

The situation is similar for most of the dump sites in the cities. This is two edge problem - (1) the collection efficiencies are low, where a good chunk of the waste is not collected and left for burning in the residential areas and along the roads (2) the burning that takes place at the landfills. It is strange (and sad) line of thought that it is assumed when trash is burned, it disappears and it is not our problem. People need to realize against waste generation and raise voice against waste management.

supratik said...

5th April 11:16pm.
Street lights in Velachery Bypass road are dim. Standing in my balcony at 5th floor, I can see surrounding is engulfed in smoke. cannot stand for more than 5 minutes due to smell of smoke.

Chennai Municipal corporation, Is Chennai Burning??

Raj Ramadurai said...

It is pathetic that no one is complaining about this. The burning of Waste must stop NOW.

Anonymous said...

So pathetic... They are burning near the doshi apartments, velachery and the smoke is there in 5 kms radius... sad that no action is taken so far...

definitely by breathing this ..
very soon there will be many victims for this action ... suffering from horrendous diseases.


Toxic breather said...

We stay in Ramaniyam Eden Velachery and starting 7 pm, the entire smoke engulfs the area.

Further, it is a double whammy in the heat - cannot put AC since the smoke just comes in and pollutes the entire house and in addition, we have to close all windows.

I cannot believe that everyone is putting up with this. We risk getting exposed to carcinogenic / toxic substances which will have serious health implications.

We are seriously considering renting out and moving out of Velachery.

Call to action - please advise what can be done to positively influence this situation?

Rajesh Rangarajan said...

Dumping of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and its hazards and the need for better pollution monitoring are interconnected issues. However, it is important to see these as separate issues and tackle the problem from both ends to address the growing health hazard.

MSW management is significantly lacking in impetus at the upper end of the management chain - segregation and recycling are undone by promoting centralised disposal through PPPs thus undermining citizen centric efforts such as Exnora. So any centralised approach which increases the quantum of waste to be handled should be discouraged through any means possible.

The lack of data on pollution from waste dumping is a significant gap that becomes a reason for not targeting action. This has to be plugged to ensure that pollutants from the dumpsite are monitored and kept in check through periodic bans on illegal dumping and burning of MSW.

However, it is not to say that the latter can continue as business-as-usual if there is monitoring.

A simple analogy to this catch-22 situation is this - Is it not simpler and smarter to close the tap to stop a bucket from overflowing, and not simply keep throwing out the excess water and complaining about wastage?.

Anonymous said...

Even after the Madras HC has asked the corporation to stop burning garbage, it still continues. At Velachery, we still have heavy smoke that chokes residents depending on the wind patterns that blow.

Could the pollution control board do something? Could we take action to stop this situtation?

Sarath Guttikunda said...

As Rajesh mentioned in his comment, often this problem gets neglected because of lack of continuous monitoring - not just eyeballing fires, but also for the toxicity levels of pollutants from these fires. A good continuous air quality monitor closer to the locality would do the trick, provided the data is made public from time to time.