PCBA monitors show Guwahati air as most polluted between 6 PM to 8 PM
GUWAHATI: In a day, the air quality level in Guwahati is at its worst between 6-8 pm as the pollutants in the air (PM 2.5) is recorded to be the highest on an average during 6 to 8 in the evening.
This was revealed by analysing two months’ data obtained by the continuous air quality monitoring station at Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) and the results showed that Guwahatians are most prone to toxic air during the evening hours.
Further, according to the data, the city’s air pollution levels showed an increasing trend over the past two months. The average PM 2.5 level in the month of October in Guwahati was 53.36 while this increased sharply to 97.9 in November.
PM 2.5 are fine particulate matters suspended in the air measuring two and a half microns or less in width. There are around 25,000 microns in an inch. Presence of high levels of PM 2.5 in the air reduces visibility and causes the air to appear hazy and can pose serious health-related risks among people including respiratory issues.
The highest PM 2.5 level as recorded in an hour in October was 290, whereas the lowest was 1.
Further, as per the data the highest PM 10 level for October was 1000 while the lowest PM 10 level in October was 18. PM 10 is another air pollutant which is particulate matter measuring 10 micrometers or less in diameter.
Currently, there are six air quality monitoring stations in Guwahati and 23 stations all over the state which help in measuring different parameters of air quality.
The PCBA recently inaugurated a continuous air quality monitoring station in Guwahati, the first-of-its-kind in the northeast. Officials informed G Plus that the real-time data which is generated is reflected on display boards in two different places in Guwahati.
“The continuous ambient air quality monitoring station measures PM 2.5 particles including eight other parameters on air quality. Through the station, data is generated every second and the air quality, according to the time of the day, will be available to the people,” Gokul Bhuyan, senior environment engineer of PCBA told G Plus.
Earlier, the pollution control board had only one monitoring station to measure PM 2.5 particles. However, they plan to inaugurate two more stations in the coming days, but it will not reflect continuous data and will only show the average data of 8 or 16 hours, said authorities.
Pollutants in Guwahati much higher than the prescribed level
The PCBA data showed that during November, the pollutants in the air- both PM 2.5, as well as PM 10, were recorded to be much higher than the prescribed level.
As per the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the prescribed safe limit for PM 2.5 is 60 micrograms per cubic metre and for PM 10 it is 100 micrograms per cubic. However, the average PM 2.5 level as recorded for November was 97.9 while the average PM 10 level was 162.2.
Guwahati was selected as part of 102 non-attainment cities by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Non-attainment cities are those cities in which the prescribed Ambient Air Quality Standards as set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) are violated.
The ministry of environment had released a draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in April this year. In the draft, Guwahati had featured among the “non-attainment cities” along with Nagaon, Nalbari, Sibsagar and Silchar from Assam. A total of 94 cities had earlier been identified as non-attainment cities.
The NCAP is a national programme to tackle the increasing air pollution across the country. It suggests several measures to reduce air pollution levels in a collaborative approach.
Accordingly, Guwahati was mandated to make the air action plan to better its air quality. However the plan is yet to materialise.
“The APCB has made an action plan and we have sent it for review to the central pollution control board (CPCB). But the Supreme Court ruled that the air action plan for each of the cities will have to be viewed by a six-member committee,” Monoj Saikia, a senior environmental engineer at PCBA informed G Plus.
He added that this will then be approved by the chief secretary. However, the six-member committee is yet to be formed to review the air action plan.
One of the major impediments for authorities working in the field to improve the air quality index for Guwahati has been the lack of availability of proper data on air pollution.
“Before this, there was only one continuous monitoring station for PM 2.5 which is why people did not have access to data related to air quality index. The extent of pollution hence cannot be fully understood unless there are multiple meters set up in the city to measure PM 2.5 particles,” said an expert.
This then results in lack of data for the authorities to make policy interventions on, he added.
Guwahati would emulate Delhi’s pollution levels if efforts are not taken
Experts revealed that Guwahati with its increasing pollution levels, escalated by vehicular emissions, and with the setting up of new industries, will soon emulate New Delhi if some concrete steps are not taken to curb the pollution levels.
Guwahati’s pollution scenario, escalated by the increasing numbers of vehicles and with the setting up of new industries, can soon compete with the Delhi’s air quality, said an environmental expert.
According to a study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated in September 2017, Guwahati stands in the “High” category with 85.6 Pollution Index on a scale of 100.
The report based on a mass-opinion based data had revealed that air pollution, drinking water pollution and inaccessibility are marked at high category, while dissatisfaction with garbage disposal and unhygienic waste disposal practises are marked at very high category.
According to the WHO report, air pollution level in the city is 75 out of 100, which puts the city into the high category of pollution.
There are basically six atmospheric pollutants or components of Air Pollution Index (API), namely sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM 10, PM 2.5, carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) that are measured at the monitoring stations throughout each city.
“Guwahati’s condition is not as grim as Delhi, but it is still worrisome. While Delhi reaches a whooping 700 in API during the Diwali season, Guwahati, despite having ample reserves of flora in and around, too reaches above 300 in the index. Guwahati’s normal API is within the permissible limit of 100-130,” said an environmentalist based in Guwahati.
As per the National Air Quality index set by the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the 51-100 API is considered ‘good’ while Guwahati falls in lightly polluted category of 101 to 150; New Delhi and Mumbai fall under the highly polluted category of above 300 API.
Awareness, participation from all stakeholders needed
Experts feel that one of the major priority areas for the state government should be to check pollution emitted by vehicles plying in the city.
“For this, the state transport department should be asked to strictly implement ban on vehicles which are more than ten years old from plying,” said an official.
He further added that the emission levels from various industries located across the city should be monitored.
Additionally, the fragile ecology of the place warrants that environmental concerns should be taken care of.
“We need to take continuous measures to keep air pollution in check. Since pollution affects every citizen, participation from all stakeholders is required for effective implementation of policies,” said an environmental engineer.
According to a report by the Assam Science Technology & Environment Council (ASTEC), air quality monitoring station at Bamunimaidan revealed the presence of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) well above the prescribed limit since 2008.
The presence of sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen was, however, within the permissible limits at all the monitoring stations.
The report goes on to say that Guwahati has one of the highest black carbon pollution levels in the country which is due to rapid urbanization and poor environmental quality control.