GUWAHATI, May 11 – Dust pollution continues to deteriorate in the city, posing a grave health hazard threat to the citizens. The road dust, together with vehicular emissions, forms a toxic haze that hangs over the atmosphere for a prolonged period. Monitoring of the city’s ambient air quality by the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) has revealed that both respirable particulate matter (RPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air have been found to be high, often crossing the permissible limits.
The permissible limits for SPM and RPM are 200 micrograms per metre cubic and 100 micrograms per metre cubic respectively.
Degradation of the city hills leading to accumulation of loose soil on the roads following rain, the boom in construction activities and the failure to maintain the norms aimed at checking dust pollution, growing vehicular movement and emission, have combined to worsen the dust pollution in Guwahati.
“The trend of dust pollution is certainly worrying as it reveals an increasing trend. We have at present four ambient air quality monitoring stations, with another two scheduled to come up shortly,” a PCBA official said.
The official, while attributing the dust pollution to several factors including the city’s topography surrounded by hills, said that dust pollution normally showed a rising trend during the winter as there is less rainfall to clean the atmosphere. “From our ambient air quality checks, the period from November to March shows higher presence of SPM and RPM in the air,” he said.
Besides monitoring, the PCBA recommends measures to the offenders for reducing air pollution. “We ask the Guwahati Refinery to maintain fuel quality and also arrange free pollution check-ups for vehicles. For checking vehicular pollution, however, the administration and the Transport Department should display greater commitment,” the official said.
The PCBA recently moved the Central Government to set up a continuous air quality monitoring station. At present it has four ambient air quality monitoring stations at Bamunimaidam, Santipur, Gopinath Nagar and Khanapara while the two new ones are to come up at the Gauhati University campus and at Boragaon.
“We had also recommended a 21-point action plan for reducing vehicular pollution in the city,” he said.
It may be recalled that the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh during his recent visit to the city expressed dissatisfaction at the growing dust pollution.
Deforestation and earth-cutting in the city hills invariably results in erosion of loose earth from the hills. Rains then wash down the topsoil and deposit it on the roads besides clogging the drains.
The MRD Road near Chandmari best illustrates this recurring phenomenon. A single burst of shower is enough to inundate the road and once the waterlogging subsides, it leaves a deep layer of slush which ultimately turns into dust after a day or two and then spread everywhere by vehicular movement.
This apart, the haphazard urbanization process that cares little about maintaining even the basic norms of checking dust pollution during construction is another factor aggravating the situation. The public had to endure a harrowing time during the construction of all the flyovers in the city in the past few years with serious dust pollution affecting the construction sites as well as the nearby areas. Dumping of construction materials including sand, stones, cement, in the open without adequate cover is typical of any construction activity in the city. The ongoing boom in real estate in the city has pushed the dust pollution to alarming levels.