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WHO alert on pollution falls on deaf ears

The World Health Organisation’s recent air pollution report that declared Patna the second most polluted Indian city (after New Delhi) does not seem to have had the desired effect on authorities.

They have taken no serious steps though the level of pollutants remains considerably higher than permissible in the city. What makes it worse is the presence of westerly winds — called loo — that blow particles smaller than 10 and 2.5 microns in size (PM2.5 and PM10) in the air we breathe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released its 2014 version of Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) database — comprising results of outdoor air pollution monitoring from almost 1,600 cities in 91 countries — on May 7.

Based on outdoor (ambient) air quality monitoring database from 2008 to 2013, the average level of PM2.5 in Patna was found to be 149micrograms/cubic metre and that of PM10 164micrograms/cubic meter. The standard level prescribed by Central Pollution Control Board is 60 micrograms/cubic meter for PM10 and 40micrograms/cubic meter for PM2.5.

Such high level of pollution is hazardous to human health and can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory disorders like asthma, cough, bronchitis and lung congestion.

“Particulate matter below 10 microns can reach the lungs and damage the respiratory system. Excessive air pollution can trigger allergic reaction in lungs, bronchitis, sinus blockage and asthma among others. Asthma patients should be extra cautious about dust particles,” said Ashok Ghosh, a city-based environmentalist and professor, department of environment and water management, A.N. College.

Officials in the Bihar State Pollution Control Board claimed PM10 and PM2.5 levels have, in fact, dipped in the last fiscal (2013-14).

“We have not been communicated any official figures based on which the WHO report identified Patna as the second most polluted city in the country. However, our own annual report on ambient quality monitoring in the city reveals the level of PM10 and PM2.5 has dipped during 2013-14. The quality of air over Patna has, in fact, improved in the past year,” Bihar State Pollution Control Board scientist Arun Kumar said.

Another scientist with the board, however, said the fall in PM10 and PM2.5 levels over Patna was marginal and still higher than permissible. “Especially, the prevailing dry and light westerly winds increase concentration of pollutants in the air we breathe. So, there is a need to keep a tab on the rise of these pollutants in summer,” said the scientist on condition of anonymity.

In the past three fiscals, the average PM10 and PM2.5 level has remained more than thrice the standard limit. Though the state pollution control board does not have any recent data regarding pollution in specific parts of the city, as per regular observation at the three monitoring stations in Beltron Bhavan, Gandhi Maidan and Planetarium, the level is comparatively higher at the latter two, basically due to higher vehicular emission.


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