Wednesday December 12, 2018

Indian cities choking on high RSPM levels

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By Nithin Sridhar

While speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Environment and Forest Minister, Ramanath Rai expressed serious concerns regarding the rising levels of RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) in Bengaluru city.

RSPM level refers to the amount of suspended dust particles that can enter the human respiratory system. It is one of the parameters that determine the extent of Air pollution. Higher the RSPM levels, higher will be the exposure to human health risks associated with the dust inhalation.

Situation in Bengaluru:

According to the statistics revealed by the minister, the RSPM levels for Bengaluru have exceeded the national permissible levels by a range of 2% to 283% in 13 air monitoring stations.

The minister said that around 54.4 tons of dust is generated daily and 42% of which comes from vehicular emissions. The dust present on roads, caused due construction activities, industries, generators, and domestic activities contribute around 20%, 14%, 14%, 7% and 3% respectively towards dust generation.

The Whitefield Industrial Zone has the highest level of respirable suspended dust in Bengaluru with RSPM level of 230 milligrams per cubic meters of air as against the national permissible RSPM level of 60 milligrams per cubic meters.

The RSPM levels in micrograms per cubic meters for other areas are as follows: Mysore Road (209), Yelahanka (121), Peenya Gymkhana (119), Peenya Industrial Area (114), Yeshwanthpur (129), Silk Board (189), Victoria Road (162), Banswadi (84), Sonnenahalli (69), City Railway station (67), Victoria Hospital (154) and NIMHANS (125).

On the other hand, the NO2 and SO2 levels have been found to be within the permissible levels in Bengaluru.

Situation across the nation:

According to a report from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), between 2001 and 2007, the RSPM levels for all metros except Chennai have been above permissible limits. The RSPM levels for Delhi has increased from 120 micrograms per cubic meters in 2001 to 160 micrograms per cubic meters in 2007. For the same period, the RSPM levels have increased from 80 to 100 micrograms per cubic meters in Mumbai.

Kolkata recorded RSPM level of 140 micrograms per cubic meters in 2007. Only Chennai recorded 50 micrograms per cubic meters which is below the national permissible limit. The levels of SO2 for these metros between the years 2001-2007 have remained below the permissible limits of 50 per cubic meters.

According to Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee, the RSPM levels for Chandigarh in 2014 was well beyond the national permissible limits. In Industrial area, it was at 114 micrograms per cubic meters, almost twice the permissible limits.

According to this 2010 CPCB report, a total of 130 cities exceeded the RSPM permissible levels across India.

Rising vehicular traffic is one of the major contributors towards increasing RSPM levels. Industrial and Domestic activities are other sources of air pollution.

Effect of RSPM on human health:

Most of the particles inhaled by the body are removed out of the body through nostrils. Smaller ones may pass through the windpipe and get stuck into protective mucus and be removed later on. But the smallest of these particles with their size less than or equal to 10 microns (called as RSPM) gets deposited in the air sacs of lungs.

These deposited tiny particles interfere with respiratory actions like an exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen. This places extra pressure on the heart and will cause acute shortness of breath.

Hence, RSPM can cause extensive damage to the respiratory system. It will lead to difficulty in breathing, aggravated coughing and decreased functioning levels. It may lead to cardiopulmonary problems, asthma, bronchitis, and in extreme cases, premature deaths.

Steps to reduce air pollution:

To reduce the levels of RSPM in Bengaluru, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had issued a 13-point direction to Transport and other government departments according to the report in The Hindu.

The remedial measures that have been suggested include creating dedicated bus lanes, increasing green covers, banning vehicles having 2 strokes and those which are older than 15 years, restrictions on the movement of heavy vehicles, clearing of encroachment and filling of potholes.

In 2003, the Supreme Court of India directed the respective state governments to prepare action plans to bring down the RSPM levels in Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Sholapur, Lucknow, Bangalore, Chennai, and Hyderabad.

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The major actions that were proposed for most of these cities included:

  1. Industrial Pollution: Shifting of Industries from non-conforming zones, switching over to clean technologies, using clean fuels, installation of Pollution control Devices, Development of green belt, etc.
  2. Vehicular Pollution: Implementation of the emission norms as well as fuel quality in accordance with the road map proposed by the Auto Fuel Policy, switching over to clean alternate fuels like CNG, LPG & Bio-fuels, augmentation in Public Transport system, Better traffic management.
  3. Domestic Pollution: Ban on open burning of garbage, biomass, etc. and augmentation on the supply of LPG as cooking fuel etc.

But the measures that have been taken across various cities till date appear to be insufficient to bring the RSPM level below the permissible levels. Instead, the rising vehicular populations and increasing factories and industries are making the situation worse. The city and state administrations must pursue this issue seriously and should try to bring the RSPM below the permissible level as soon as possible.

 

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Air Pollution Worsens In Western Balkan Cities

Activists say the funds allocated are insufficient and that the government's response is inadequate.

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Smog, Air pollution
General view of the city as smog blankets Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. VOA

When winter arrives in the Western Balkans, it is not unusual for dense smog to envelop its cities, making it hard to breathe and impairing visibility. But this year, air pollution levels are among the highest in the world and public anger is on the rise.

In recent days, the Bosnian, Macedonian and Kosovar capitals topped the charts of the world’s most polluted cities as the smog intensified due to heavy traffic, excessive use of coal, poor spatial planning and solid fuel based heating.

The air quality index measured by the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo hit 383 on Tuesday, a level identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as hazardous to health and almost 10 times the average. In Pristina, the index registered 415 on Monday night and marked air quality in several Macedonian towns as very poor.

“This is all the result of a situation in which political elites treat the city as a construction plot which should be occupied at all costs rather than a place where people live,” Anes Podic of Sarajevo’s Eko Akcija environmental group said.

global warming, air pollution, Asia
The sun is seen through evening air pollution, Feb. 8, 2018. VOA

“You can feel how bad the air smells even inside the car or home,” said a taxi driver Mirsad Pobric.

According to the WHO, pollution costs Bosnia the equivalent of more than a fifth of its annual gross domestic product (GDP) every year — around $3.9 billion — in lost work and school days, healthcare and fuel costs.

Macedonia loses an equivalent of 3.2 percent of GDP a year to pollution, the World Bank said in a report, more than$360 million a year.

As a way of bringing more attention to the issue, the Embassy of Sweden has been using red lighting on its facade in central Sarajevo to reflect air quality each day. The deeper the red, the worse the pollution.

According to the WHO, 230 Bosnians die of air pollution per 100,000 citizens a year, compared to 0.4 in Sweden. The World Bank estimates that in Macedonia there are 1,350 deaths related to air pollution per year.

Air pollution
Sweden has launched a four-year project in Bosnia that will bring together experts from its Environmental Protection Agency .Wikimedia Commons

“Pollution is killing people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, therefore something really needs to be done,” Swedish Ambassador Anders Hagelberg told Reuters.

As part of efforts to combat the issue, Sweden has launched a four-year project in Bosnia that will bring together experts from its Environmental Protection Agency and local hydro-meteorological agencies and governments.

The aim of the program is to help improve air quality monitoring but also to bring more investment into energy efficiency.

Also Read: U.N. Chief Warns The World About Not Doing Enough To Prevent Climate Change

Macedonia has launched its own program to combat air pollution to which the government allocated 1.6 million euros ($1.83 million) in next year’s budget. It aims to halve Skopje’s air pollution within two years by reducing taxes for central heating, restricting traffic and introducing stricter control of industrial emissions.

Activists say the funds allocated are insufficient and that the government’s response is inadequate. (VOA)