Its sprawling forest cover notwithstanding, Jharkhand has always breathed uneasy. Three years ago, an analysis of ambient air done by the Central Pollution Control Board had found the country’s maximum concentration of sulphur dioxide in the state. Recent JSPCB data show high unburned carbon content across fume-fed residential and industrial areas of Ranchi and Jamshedpur, besides the mining belt of Dhanbad.
But, this congenitally toxic state has done little over the years to lower its air pollution levels. Now, with the International Agency for Research on Cancer placing noxious ambient air in the same category as carcinogens like tobacco, The Telegraph answers your questions on why things came to such a pass and what can be done to buffer a cancer shock
How polluted is Jharkhand’s air?
According to the 2010 ambient air quality report released by the CPCB last year, the 13-year-old state has the highest annual average concentration of SO2 at 23µg/m3, followed by Maharashtra at 17µg/m3 and Gujarat 15.5 µg/m3.
It also ranks second to Delhi in the concentration of PM10 (fine particulate matter smaller than 10 microns). While the maximum annual average concentration in the national capital is 261µg/m3, Jharkhand notches 193µg/m3). And in terms of NO2, Jharkhand stands third with 39µg/m3 after Bengal (64µg/m3) and Delhi (55µg/m3).
The annual standard for SO2 is 50µg/m3, NO2 is 40µg/m3 and PM10 is 60µg/m3. “SO2 is released by coal-based industries, while NO2 is belched by vehicles. PM10 is the solid dust particles we inhale because of a mixture of noxious emissions being released into the atmosphere,” said a senior JSPCB official
Which cities have higher SO2 concentration?
On a list of 10 national cities, Jamshedpur tops with an SO2 concentration of 35.4µg/m3. Areas like Bistupur and Golmuri in the steel city report the highest annual average of 35.6µg/m3 and 35.2µg/m3, respectively. The infamous 10 also include Adityapur with 35.0µg/m3 and West Singhbhum with 21µg/m3
Which cities have higher NO2 concentration?
Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Ranchi, Adityapur and West Singhbhum are critical areas. Jamshedpur’s Bistupur and Golmuri have recorded an annual average of 48µg/m3 and 47µg/m3, respectively. The Adityapur air is heavy with 45µg/m3, while West Singhbhum’s Barjamda has 37µg/m3.
The coal town’s CGM office recorded an annual average of 35µg/m3, Jharia 38µg/m3 and Sindri 37µg/m3. Ranchi inhales 35µg/m3 of the nitrogen oxide
Where is PM10 the highest?
West Singhbhum’s Barajamda and Dhanbad’s Jharia are critical pockets with an annual average of 302µg/m3 and 237µg/m3, respectively. They are among the national top 10 in terms of PM10.
Though not on the list, yet Dhanbad’s Sindri (174µg/m3), Ranchi (172µg/m3), Adityapur (169µg/m3) and Jamshedpur’s Bistupur (153µg/m3) and Golmuri (152µg/m3) are unsafe
Since pollution is more than double the safe limit, does it mean I am two times more prone to cancer now?
The idea is simple. Lower the levels of pollution, lesser the threats to a healthy life. Cancer is triggered by a series of factors, including a person’s lifestyle, occupation, immediate surroundings and even genes. But, exposure to a high level of air pollution increases the possibility of cancer, as mentioned in the WHO report
Who are most vulnerable?
Everybody is exposed to polluted air, though vulnerability varies according to the level of exposure, age and individual immunity. Anybody living or working close to a thoroughfare is more vulnerable than somebody living away from a polluted zone.
Children, the elderly, those with low immunity and people exposed to continuous pollution are the most vulnerable. Exposure to a high level of pollution can be fatal for those already suffering from respiratory and cardiac problems. Students of schools located along thoroughfares are susceptible, too. Women who cook within the house using kerosene or wood are also at risk.
How can I protect myself?
Wearing a mask while on the move helps, but it isn’t effective when it comes to ultra-fine particles or gases. In winter, when pollutants are concentrated in the lower strata of air, it is advisable not to take a walk around dawn or just after
How safe are public vehicles?
Jharkhand’s major pollution agents on wheels are autos, heavy vehicles and buses. While most private vehicles get their emission levels checked periodically, more than 90 per cent public and commercial vehicles don’t. Also, the state has over 29 lakh registered vehicles and less than two dozen testing centres. Forging pollution certificates is, hence, a common practice
Who is to blame for this toxic ambience?
The administration — transport department, police, environment department, district authorities and pollution control board — for not enforcing the norms. Political patronage for polluters is also responsible for the state being so vulnerable
What can I do to reduce air pollution in my city?
If you own a vehicle, ensure that it does not spew toxic fumes by taking it for periodic pollution check and maintaining it well. Also, raise your voice against pollution through written complaints