Air pollution: The deadly nemesis

We often talk about rising air pollution levels in Bangalore and forget about the other upcoming and tier two & three towns and cities across the state, which are also gradually joining the band wagon. In fact under the National Clean Air Programme, several cities across the country with more than the permissible limits of pollution were identified, and these cities were directed to come up with comprehensive action plans to address the situation and reduce pollution levels.
In Karnataka itself four cities with air pollution levels beyond the permissible limits were categorized as ‘highly-polluted’ and these included Hubballi-Dharwad, Davangere, Kalaburagi & Mangalore. And these four cities have also been asked to submit an action plans detailing strategies to tackle the problem. Apart from these four cities in Karnataka, a total of fourteen two & three tier cities across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were listed by the Central Pollution Control Board. And action plans for only three cities were found to be at the implementation & execution stages.

However, it is learnt (through state govt. agencies) that there was already an action plan for these cities, submitted to the government for approval. In 2014-15, an action plan was developed for Hubballi-Dharwad, and later for Kalaburagi & Davangere as well. And for Bengaluru, there have been several action plans since early 2000. Various recommendations have been submitted to the State government over the years. And these action plans also take time to materialize as they cannot be directly submitted to the Centre. Only after the State govt. approves it, it can be shared & forwarded to the Centre. The recommendations include introduction of electric vehicles, increase in City & State Transport Corporation buses, minimizing registration of new vehicles and also increasing the green cover within and around the urban areas.

It really is high time that the State Government took up the matter seriously and address air pollution issues in all these cities. For ex: on an average a person, in a day, on the streets of Bangalore, inhales up to 10,000 crores of suspended particulate matter (SPM) which is mostly from vehicular exhaust, industrial pollutants, construction material and waste. And in a matter of few seconds these tiny particles enter our bloodstream. It means that some of the respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM), especially those less that are than 2.5 microns, can easily get into your respiratory system, cause severe damage to your lungs and blood vessels. It has also been noticed that the pollution levels are extremely high even in sensitive area such as hospital surroundings, school limits, residential areas and other sensitive zones. Even sulphur dioxide and nitrous dioxide content was noted to be very high in such areas.

Especially in the last 20 years, Bangalore has seen rising levels of pollution from vehicular exhaust, industrial emissions & construction leading to an increase in number of asthma, bronchitis, allergic rhinitis cases and other respiratory problems in the city. In fact it was found that in a span of 10 years (between 1994 and 2004), the cases of chronic asthma had gone up from 22% of the population to 40%.

Moreover, in summer, the number of asthma cases have gone up from 2% to 20% mainly due to traffic congestion and toxins released by vehicles with diesel engines, coupled with sunlight producing ground-level ozone, which is an air pollutant with harmful effects on the respiratory system. According to senior cardiologists & chest physicians in Bangalore a large number of patients, especially children, have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in which the lung is damaged making it hard to breathe.

However, these issues can be addressed if the government and concerned agencies take strict action and comes down heavily on the polluters. And it needs to concentrate on four major issues to bring down the pollution levels: firstly the public transport system should be increased with additional fleet of buses especially in the peri-urban areas where last mile connectivity is still a big problem forcing people to use own vehicles; secondly certain areas in and around central business district should be vehicle free & encourage only electric vehicles, walk-ways, cycles, etc; thirdly construction activities need to be regulated and restricted according to the need and requirement of the population; the fourth issue is to focus on retaining and increasing the green (forest cover) & blue (water bodies) cover of the city.

This would not only help in maintaining the cities but will also enable the population to sustain itself in future.



Note from Kannada.Club :

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