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Cold & dust in cough cocktail

- Rising air pollution attributed to sandy construction sites

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 19: Cough, cough, wheeze…. Who needs a bad habit like smoking when you have dusty construction sites all over the city to help you develop respiratory ailments.

Rising air pollution in Bhubaneswar is raising concern levels. Environmentalists attribute it to various ongoing construction projects and water not being sprinkled at the construction sites to allow the dust to settle down.

“It has become very difficult to travel in the city because of the dust. The government officials must ensure that contractors engaged in construction sprinkle enough water at the sites so that dust particles settle,” said city-based environmentalist Bijay Mishra.

Residents of areas such as Bhimtangi, Pohariput, Baramunda, Unit-I and Nayapalli are the worst sufferers. In these areas, one can spot layers of dust in the air almost all day. Residents alleged the authorities did not seem to think it necessary to sprinkle water at construction sites.

School-going children near Nayapalli and Pokhariput too are being exposed to dusty air, raising concerns about their health.

“The excavated material needs to be to dumped at an isolated place and at the same time the authorities concerned must sprinkle water so that the dust settles down,” said Prasant Das, a resident of Nayapalli.

Statistics available with the State Pollution Control Board reveal that the level of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) has been more than twice the permissible limits or national ambient air quality standards.

Though the standard level of RSPM per micro gram cubic area is 100 according to national ambient air quality standards, at present all five monitoring stations set up in various parts of the city have been registering RSPM levels much higher than the standard level.

Sources in the State Pollution Control Board said the RSPM level was twice the permissible limits at monitoring stations of the pollution control office premises and Capital police station. On November 21, the pollution control board monitoring station recorded an RSPM level of 205, or twice the standard level. The maximum RSPM level recorded near Capital police station in November was 172.

The maximum RSPM level at Patrapada and IRC Village in November stood at 169 and 166, respectively. That month, the Palasuni monitoring station recorded a maximum RSPM level of 168.

At present, there are five monitoring stations: near Capital police station, IRC Village, Patrapada, Palasuni and the office premises of the pollution control board.

Sources at the board said the RSPM level remained comparatively low thanks to a bit of rain in November.

“Most of the monitoring stations have recorded RSPM levels of more than 200 in December,” said a senior official of the pollution control board, requesting anonymity.

The high level of RSPM not only affects trees by blocking the essential photosynthesis process, but also causes respiratory problems both for human beings and animals.

Health experts say that frequent exposure to dust particles can cause respiratory problems and ailments of the eye, nose and skin.

Sudhir Pattnaik, a senior medicine specialist of a city-based private hospital, said: “The increased presence of dust particles in the air causes children and senior citizens with asthma to have more problems. It can also cause allergic bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, eye problems and allergy of the skin.”

Sources in the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation said that while awarding any tender to any contractor, the agreement has clauses related to sprinkling of water at construction sites.

“We will examine the complaints about dusty air at or near construction sites if residents submit such complaints,” said city engineer T.B.K. Shroff.

However, member secretary of the State Pollution Control Board, Siddhant Das, said the ongoing construction projects were the reason behind the high RSPM levels.

“RSPM levels usually rise in winter, but the ongoing construction projects, including road expansion work, have aggravated the problem. We will ask the authorities concerned to sprinkle water to get the dust to settle,” said Das.