Air Pollution and pro-active actions required

Thursday, 26 November 2020



Air Pollution and pro-active actions required

BARUN BARPUJARI | June 11, 2019 11:22 hrs

The UN led World Environmental Day this June 5th 2019 was celebrated with the theme “Beat Air Pollution”. And air pollution is certainly reaching disturbing levels! It is reported that approximately seven million people succumb to air pollution related ailments worldwide each year. Out of this, Asia-Pacific region accounts for about four million. And children are the worst sufferers as air pollution compromises their health the most.

Every year as Diwali and winter approach, Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) grapples with heightened air pollution, contributed partially by burningof crop residual stubbles in agricultural fields of neighbouring Haryana and Punjab, construction activities, vehicle tail pipe emission and falling ambient temperature which trap pollutants. One indeed feels sorry for the residents of NCR. Thanks to the media, the plight of residents of NCR receives wide attention. However, the situation is no less alarming in several other cities of the country; India has the dubious distinction of having 14 of its cities listed among the 20 most polluted cities in the world!

If one considers dispassionately,  our own Guwahati city too does not fare very well on this count with dusty streets and smoke belching buses, trucks and autos which run on diesel and indiscriminate burning of garbage etc. The situation will progressively get worse. The issue of air pollution hardly receives any attention it deserves. One sincerely hopes that we are not waiting to be confronted with anNCR like situation before we start to act on fire fighting mode.

The Government may do well to initiate proactive actions which, inter-alia, could include,

(i)    Improve the mass transport system which includes improvement and expansion of the bus system and in the long term expediting the Metro Rail project. People would need to be encouraged to use the public transport system to extent possible instead of private vehicles. This would only be achieved if the service quality improves;

(ii)    Initiate action to progressively switching over from diesel driven buses to electric buses as is being done in several other states. Necessary infrastructure to charge / swap batteries to be put in place;

(iii)    The Government is usually the biggest procurer of goods and services and hence it needs to progressively switch its mobility requirement, at least within the city limits  and near about, to e- vehicles;

(iv)    Incentivise switching  over of diesel driven autos to e- autos;

(v)    Initiate actions to curb the flow of earth along with rain water from the surrounding hills on to the streets of the city; this would reduce the dust level. While this would seem to be impossible, it is certainly be possible to considerably reduce its magnitude;

(vi)    Vehicle mounted vacuum cleaners to be procured and accumulated dust removed from the main streets, to start with, say, on fortnightly/monthly basis. This would reduce the dust level considerably;

(vii)    Start a broad based people’s movement to segregate waste at source and arrange processing of solid waste; garbage burning must be made illegal and stringent action taken against perpetrators, including levying fines,  need to be resorted to;

(viii)    PCBA needs to install real time monitoring stations of pollutants like NOx, SOxand suspended particulate matters (PM 10 &2.5) at strategic locations with display of real time data for creating public awareness and initiating corrective measures. Presently it displays data only at its office.

(ix)    A wide spread awareness campaign needs to be undertaken to sensitize people on the ills of air pollution and what they need to do to combat it. The inhabitants of this city are also expected to behave responsibly post sensitization;

(x)    Progressively shift over ground power lines to underground so that trees could be allowed to grow unobstructed beside the roads; this  would also add to the beautification of the city if the plants are tastefully chosen.

The above is only an indicative list of actions that need to be initiated and followed through.

In most likelihood, the cost of the deleterious effect of air pollution on the health of people is not well documented for Guwahati city. But it certainly burns a significant hole in the pockets of people residing in polluted environment on account of medical treatment thereof.  

And we are not even talking of the resultant deaths! The Government of the day needs to be sensitive to this and must act now!

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