Saturday, June 02, 2012

Air Pollution in India (Tehelka Magazine)

Tehelka Magazine, June 1st Issue, 2012

Urban Air Pollution is a complex issue, fuelled by multiple sources. In December 2010, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in New Delhi released measurement-based source contributions for Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Kanpur, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, highlighting road dust and vehicle exhaust as major sources of the growing particulate pollution, followed by industrial effluents and garbage burning. In 2011, the World Health Organisation studied publicly available air quality data from 1,100 cities, including cities with populations of more than 1 lakh people, and put Delhi in the top 10 cities with the worst air pollution.
Of the critical pollutants, particulate matter is considered the most harmful and known to exacerbate respiratory and cardiovascular health, and in some cases premature death due to aggravated asthma or heart attack among the vulnerable populations. In India, 350 monitoring stations are operated by the CPCB in 120 cities, but the data available to the public is very limited and sporadic. A summary of the annual average PM10 concentrations measured in 2008 is presented here. When compared to the national annual average standard of 60 microgram/m3, more than 60 percent of these cities are experiencing critical levels.

While some initiatives like better fuel standards, emissions standards and pollution under check programmes helped improve the quality of air, they have nevertheless fallen short in keeping up with the growing numbers in transport, industrial, construction and domestic sectors. While everyone is compliant, the overall ambient levels have deteriorated in the cities.

A source that needs immediate attention is garbage burning in the residential areas and along the roads. Considerable knowledge of best practices to improve the waste collection and management exists. The basic problem has been in adapting 52 these practices to specific local conditions. Waste management is highly labour intensive and promises basic employment opportunities for a large number of people, which means we need a consolidated effort between the communities and management to reduce the garbage burning emissions.

Vehicles contribute to the growing pollution problems in two ways — the exhaust emissions and the resuspended dust due to vehicle movement. While the exhaust emissions can be controlled by improving the manufacturing standards, the best solution lies in controlling the use of the vehicles — which means, the cities need to invest and promote public bus transport, cycling and walking, more aggressively.

Controlling dust entails more than just constructing roads and pavements, which includes measures like wet sweeping, promoting vegetation in dry areas, and completing road work that often times result in ditches that are left as is, after the departments concerned (roads, telephone, sewer, electricity and gas) have finished their work.

The construction sector is booming and with that the demand for bricks. The current technology is energy inefficient and predominantly uses coal and agricultural waste as fuel. For most urban areas, while relocation of brick kilns has proved beneficial in the past, with the growing demand and city size, a more promising approach would be to introduce emerging technologies that reduce emission rates, followed by strict enforcement of an inspection and maintenance programme.

In India, economic growth is our priority and factors like overall pollution control and tougher emissions targets only become part of the dialogue at the second stage. To relieve the tension between economic growth, energy savings and emissions reductions, we need to look for potential drivers beyond regulations and orders. While the regulators are working on the limits, we also need to focus on a proven and highly cost-effective measure — openness of environmental information.

From a broader perspective, while the knowledge of pollution sources exists, a wider dissemination of information from the monitors, programmes, and better public awareness can build an effective air quality management plan vital for clean air and better health.


chevrolet captiva said...

This is an alarming situation for all of us that air pollution has increased so much.We have to take serious measure for that.Especially against the pollution by automobiles.

Sarath Guttikunda said...

The pollution is beyond the automobiles. They are only one part of the solution. We need to start looking in all directions and all possible ways - control and conservation.

Rubbish Removal NYC said...

I would have to agree with Sarath, the only way we're bringing our nature back into control for safety is if we start to enforce. But this won't happen because of its cost for the government. We would only end up being taxed the living hell out of.

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