Bengaluru’s air pollution beats New Delhi. The Garden City Bengaluru tops the list of major polluting cities in India. Air Pollution is posing a severe problem in Bengaluru. The city is getting gritty with particulate matter. What exactly is blowing around?
Rising levels of particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns (which are fine dust) in the air is making the civic body BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to wake up and take the matter seriously.
The contributing factors are increased industrial activity in the out-skirts and increase in number of vehicles.
Air pollution :
Air pollution has been a cause of worry globally. Vehicular pollution is among those concerns that contributes maximum to air pollution in Bengaluru.
Data indicates that 60-70% of the emissions is said to originate from vehicles. This makes the city the only one in India to be most impacted by vehicular pollution.
An air quality index (AQI) is used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become.
As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects.
How does Bengaluru rate in the Air Quality Index (AQI) ?
Not too good. It has been found that the biggest air pollutant in the city is particulate matter (PM), specifically PM10 and PM2.5. These are tiny, irritant suspensions in the air that tend to enter and cause respiratory and even cardiovascular diseases.
The air has reached a very high level of pollution. Effects can be immediately felt by individuals at risk. Everybody feels the effects of a prolonged exposure.
Reasons for air pollution :
With growing vehicle numbers and resultant congestion and dieselization, air pollution is a growing concern in Bengaluru. The city is losing its inherent advantage of dominant commuting practices – use of bus and walking at the cost of clean air and public health.
Bengaluru needs stringent measures including leapfrogging emissions standards to Euro VI, curbing dieselization, scaling up of public transport, carpooling and walking for clean air.
Walkers and public transport users are inhaling very high pollution in Bengaluru. AC car users are also not safe. There is a strong variation in exposure depending on the mode of transport.
The open modes like walking, open buses and autos show a very high level of exposure than ambient levels. It is also the dominant approach. Even AC cars with windows rolled up to have as high as 125 micro-grammes per cum. Commuters on sustainable modes are more at risk.
Causes of Bengaluru’s air pollution :
Air pollution has been a cause of worry globally. Economic growth of cities has influenced the spatial patterns of emission sources, directly impacting public health.
Bengaluru’s rapid development and changing landscape followed by lack of planning has led to several urban concerns, with air pollution being a crucial one.
Contributors to air pollution are unique to each city. Vehicular pollution is among those concerns that contributes maximum to air pollution in Bengaluru.
Data Indicates that 60-70% of the emissions is said to originate from vehicles. This makes the city the only one in India to be most impacted by vehicular pollution.
Central Pollution Control Board :
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, 14 areas in Bengaluru including Central Silk Board Junction, ITPL Whitefield Road and Domlur Circle, which are key commercial areas in the city, have harmful particulate matter levels exceeding the national standards by a significant margin.
A study conducted by Urban Emissions also shows that Bengaluru’s pollution levels at three times the WHO’s safety limit.
It may be noted that over the last two decades efforts are being made at local levels to assess the health impacts of air pollution. There is enough evidence to act urgently to reduce the public health risks to children, elderly, poor and all.
Bengaluru have to take action now to reverse the trend of short-term effects as well as the long-term toxic effects. For toxic effects to surface, there is a long latency period, therefore, exposure will have to be reduced today.
Addressing air pollution and health risk has assumed greater importance after the release of the global burden of disease that has ranked air pollution as the fifth largest killer.
Studies in Bengaluru shows the health impacts of air pollution, especially on children. Stunning evidence is available on health impacts on traffic policemen who are directly exposed to traffic pollution.
BBMP’s Action to control Bengaluru’s Air pollution :
The Civic body of Bengaluru, BBMP has deployed its team of Assistant Executive Engineers. These engineers are attached with the Road Infrastructure wing to clear the silt and dust deposited on the major and busy roads of Bengaluru.
The Assistant Executive Engineers will be using mechanical sweepers on major roads in 12 high density corridors in the city. The BBMP will be adding 17 mechanical sweepers. The civic body already has a fleet of 9 machines. This helps in covering 1200 km. of arterial roads.
BBMP Commissioner’s statement about Bengaluru’s air pollution :
According to N.Manjunatha, BBMP Commissioner, “due to constant rains and heavy vehicle movement, these roads are littered with silt and debris. All these days, our Assistant Executive Engineers and Executive Engineers were attending to the potholes and asphalting. But henceforth, they will also be working to ensure no dust or silt deposits on the road”.
Total length of Arterial roads – 1200 km.
Number of compactors – 25
High density corridors – 12
Number of sweeping machines – 25
Civil engineers to be deployed : Assistant Executive Engineers – 25 Executive Engineers – 8
Each assistant executive engineers will have 50km. of jurisdiction with one compactor and a mechanical sweeper. Once the 17 mechanical sweepers arrive, the work will progress steadily.
Lesson’s from New Delhi :
Before spelling specific measures required to tackle the declining quality of air in Bengaluru, it would be worthy to look at the lessons learnt by New Delhi in its attempt to combat air pollution.
In the capital, one could notice that responses to declining air quality came as a knee-jerk reaction yielding measures that were too little too late. Measures such as banning of construction and usage of diesel generators and deployment of green marshals to enforce regulations had little impact on the overall air quality.
These instances indicate that solving air pollution must be a continuous effort supported by vigorous institutions, latest technology, citizen participation and progressive regulations.
The current situation in Bengaluru is an opportunity to address air pollution at an early stage and set the regulatory benchmark for other states to follow.
Why are Regulatory institutions weak to combat Bengaluru’s air pollution ?
The Air Pollution Act of 1981 allows for State Governments to regulate air pollution with the considerations of local factors. Unlike other environmental laws in India, which concentrate powers with the Central Governments, the provisions pertaining to air pollution provide sufficient scope for local authorities to develop innovative regulations.
However due to poor capacity of State level regulatory institutions, local governments have failed to realize the true intent of the law.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) suffers from a deficit of manpower, infrastructure and competence.
Policy and regulatory challenges – Bengaluru’s Air pollution :
Emissions from Vehicular pollution is said to be a key contributor to Bengaluru’s air pollution. This is evidenced by the fact that Bengaluru is the most congested metro city in the country.
Some of the important solutions mooted to address the facing challenges includes a strict parking policy and revision of motor vehicle taxes.
The Karnataka Motor Vehicle Taxation Act 1957, which taxes motor vehicles during the time of registration, currently follows an archaic procedure of taxation.
The Act makes the size of vehicle a critical component of the tax calculation process. This structure requires urgent revision, with a need to develop a linkage between motor vehicle tax and emission levels.
Improving Bengaluru’s Air pollution condition must become a priority- the situation in Delhi must provide authorities sufficient impetus to undertake early course correction.
The first step towards cleaning Bengaluru’s air pollution is to create an enabling environment for course correction and strengthen the decision making institutions. This structure will pave way for preparation of the much needed city wide action plan to combat air pollution.
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