Guwahati enroute to alarming pollution levels
Don’t take a deep breath but brace yourself! Growing air pollution has emerged as a serious concern for the city. Sulphur dioxide, ammonia and suspended particles in the air are higher across the city than the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) standards leading to air pollution and posing serious health concerns.
Concentration levels of air pollutants in the city show mixed observations. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are found to be below prescribed standards at all six monitoring sites of the city. However, the amount of coarse dust particles has been found to be consistently high.
Particle pollution, also called particulate matter or PM, is a mixture of solids and liquid droplets floating in the air. Some particles are released directly from a specific source, while others form in complicated chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Particles come in a wide range of sizes. Particles less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter are so small that they can get into the lungs potentially causing serious health problems. Ten micrometers is less than the width of a single strand of human hair. Such is the cause of pollution in Guwahati.
Along with vehicular emission, dust contributes a major share of the deteriorating air quality. It is easily noticeable during a stroll around the city. One can usually notice a thick layer of dust covering several areas, especially during the dry seasons. It requires mention that inhaling particulate matter can cause hazardous diseases like asthma, lung cancer, upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia, heart problems and even damage to the kidneys and liver.
The growing air pollution can be observed through a comparison between last year’s air quality data with this year. Environment status report of Guwahati observes that with widespread construction activities and increasing number of vehicles, suspended particulates in the ambient air exceed the air quality standards set by CPCB.
Sources of air pollution:
The gradual depletion of the forest cover in the hills surrounding the city and the steady increase in the number of vehicles are major factors for this dust pollution. However, one cannot also ignore the fact that the spurt in real estate construction activities in and around Guwahati has also played its part.
A study carried out by the Pollution Control Board Assam on the ambient air quality in the state over a 7-year period revealed that gaseous pollutants have remained in the low pollution category whereas dust particles from Brahmaputra valley that rise up with air is what contributes the most in polluting the air. According to officials of Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) 80% of air pollution is caused due to dust particles and only 20% is caused by other sources such as vehicular pollution that emits sulphur dioxide, bicarbonate, etc.
The PCBA which has been monitoring the city’s ambient air quality under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) has recorded high levels of air pollution in all its monitoring stations in the city. Data with the air quality monitoring station at Bamunimaidam reveals presence of suspended particulate matter (SPM) well above the prescribed limit which is 250 micrograms per cubic meter since the year 2008.
The presence of sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen was however within the permissible limits at all the monitoring stations.
There are currently 6 continuous air quality monitoring stations in the city that are located in Bamunimaidam, Dispur, Birubari, Gauhati University, Pandu and Noonmati. The air pollution index measures air pollution through weighted particles that cause air pollution and determine the pollution level on a scale of 1 to 300.
The rapid urbanization and poor environment quality control in Guwahati is giving rise to such high bicarbonate levels. Guwahati has been one of India’s most rapidly growing cities since the last 10-12 years. Unfortunately, for a rapidly urbanizing city like Guwahati with a population of a million and half, it doesn’t have the infrastructure to sustain this growth. For example, there are just few major roads of which GS Road, RG Baruah Road and the GNB Road connects different parts of the city. Added to this is the very poor public transportation system. The result is that people prefer travelling in their own private vehicles causing large scale emission throughout the city.
Air Quality Index is differentiated in six different categories
0-50 good air quality and has minimal effect on healt
51-100 pollution level is referred as satisfactory. However minor discomfort may occur to sensitive people
101-200 indicates moderate pollution that may cause discomfort to children and to people with lung and heart diseases
201-300 indicates poor pollution causing breathing discomfort
301-400 indicates very poor pollution level and causes respiratory illness to people with prolonged exposure
Above 400 indicates severely pollution and may cause respiratory effects on healthy people
Studies connect particle pollution exposure to a variety of health issues, such as:
Irritation of the eyes, nose and throat
Coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath
Reduced lung function
Premature death in people with heart or lung disease
Real time Air Quality Index as on 1st September
(as on July’16)
80% of air pollution is caused due to dust particles and only 20% is caused by other sources
There are 24 air quality monitoring stations in Assam out of which 6 are in Guwahati
The air quality monitoring stations are located in Bamunimaidam, Dispur, Birubari, Gauhati University, Pandu and Noonmati.
Another continuous air quality monitoring station will soon be installed in Dispur secretariat.