Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On Deepavali, pollution levels hit the ceiling

On Deepavali, pollution levels hit the ceiling

Deepa Kurup
Campaigns to reduce the use of firecrackers fall on deaf ears


BANGALORE: This Deepavali, air pollution levels went over the top with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board recording the highest RSPM (respirable suspended particulate matter) levels ever: a staggering 149.6 mg/m3 (microgram per cubic metre) measured near the City Railway station area, located in Majestic.

This is far above permissible limits of 100 mg/m3 prescribed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standard. It must be noted that on a regular day this area, which is typically choked with traffic, records RSPM levels only around 131.5.

Increase
On Saturday, despite the almost negligible traffic influx, particulate matter climbed up by about 14 per cent owing to cracker dust in the air due to Deepavali festivities.

In 2008, RSPM levels in the same area were pegged at 138 mg/m3.

A KSPCB official told The Hindu that RSPM levels in this traffic-intensive area is on the rise, as are the figures recorded every Deepavali. Deepavali day figures for all parameters are compared to an average calculated by monitoring pollution levels on three days preceding the festival.

Further, sulphur dioxide levels recorded in the same area increased by 26.7 per cent from 17 mg/m3 to 21 mg/m3.

Oxides level
Interestingly, levels of carbon monoxide and various oxides of nitrogen decreased by 13 per cent and 67 per cent respectively, compared to their normal day figures.

The official explained that this was due to the fact that vehicular movement on these otherwise choked roads had reduced dramatically owing to the fact that Deepavali was a public holiday.

Both carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides are products of engine combustion.

Peaking parameters
In the second continuous ambient air quality monitoring station in Basavesvaranagar (near the KSPCB office) all parameters — particulate matter and gaseous concentrations — appeared to peak on festival day. RSPM here increased from 45.5 to 52 mg/m3, recording a 36 per cent increase.

Sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides saw an increase of 27 per cent, 2 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

“Crackers generally comprise metal salts, sulphur and nitrates, all of which pollute the atmosphere. High particulate levels can also be unsafe as it indicates high metal content — usually due to colour component in fireworks. This could lead to discomfort in those with asthmatic tendencies,” an official explained.

Noise
Data collated from round-the-clock ambient air quality monitoring stations in the city indicate that intensive campaigns and efforts to reduce the use of firecrackers may have fallen on deaf ears. Sound pollution too, as per the figures collated in Indiranagar, increased by 34 per cent.

The KSPCB monitored noise levels in Jayanagar, AECS Layout, Indiranagar ESI Hospital, Vijaynagar Club and Cubbonpet. The equivalent values measured over an eight-hour-period near the ESI hospital was recorded at 89.9 decibel, as against 64 decibel measured on “normal days”.

Maximum value
The maximum value recorded on Saturday was no less than 97.9 decibels, which is far above the permissible limit of 50 decibels.

Noise levels were high in all areas where monitoring took place, though the specific area-wise figures are yet to be collated, the official said.

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