Lungs are getting choked as Jamshedpur roads are increasingly clogged with vehicles, the results of a survey by Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB), regional office, revealed on Friday.
For the first time, the annual survey conducted since 2001 used a specialised gadget — the respirable dust sampler — to measure pollutants less than 10 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3).
It was evident that ambient air quality had suffered a severe dip with respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) on the rise.
“The new gadget gave us an accurate data of air pollution. RSPM is the cause behind most lung and respiratory problems,” said pollution control board regional officer R.N. Choudhary.
He added that earlier this November, the equipment was installed at Golmuri and Bistupur in Jamshedpur (East Singhbhum district) and Adityapur (adjoining Seraikela-Kharsawan) to find out the existing status of ambient air quality and ascertain whether prescribed national standards were violated.
The answers to both are alarming for 13.37 lakh residents of Jamshedpur.
The 24-hour tests — in shifts of eight hours each — revealed that average RSPM in residential Golmuri 184.45 µg/m3 and prime area Bistupur — an upscale residential-cum-commercial area with Tata Main Hospital, several educational institutions and nursing homes — is 124.29 µg/m3.
Both the figures are far above 100 µg/m3, specified for residential areas according to national ambient air quality standards prescribed by the Union ministry of environment and forest.
Adityapur — one of eastern India’s largest cluster of units — also notched up an RSPM of 165.39 µg/m3, higher than the specified standard of 150µg/m3 for an industrial zone .
RSPM enters the nasal tract and lungs, causing various diseases ranging from aggravated coughing, breathing discomfort and sneezing to asthma, migraine, cancer and cardiac problems. People from all age groups are vulnerable to this, but newborns are particularly so.
Medically, the RSPM is classified as a causative agent of mortality and morbidity.
According to Choudhary, diesel-run vehicles were chief culprits as the unburned carbon raised RSPM count.
“Look, not too many new industries have sprung up in Jamshedpur during the last few years. But the rising numbers of diesel-run vehicles are the main cause behind the rise in air pollution,” confirmed Choudhary.
As disposable incomes have grown, the sale of commercial (read diesel-run) vehicles, especially cars, in Jamshedpur has grown exponentially in the recent past.
“In the fiscal 2010-11, we registered the sale of 4,511 commercial vehicles. But in the first six months of 2011-12, that is from April to October 2011, we have already registered 3,027 commercial vehicles,” said East Singhbhum district transport officer Manoj Kumar.
For laymen, the most simple form of RSPM is soot.
Experts ascribe the rise in RSPM in air as worrying when it is apparent that the greyish-pink hues during sunset is enhanced and visible even to the naked eye.
Apart from respirable suspended particulate matter, the survey also included noxious gases such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen that result in irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.
However, here, Jamshedpur found a surprise silver lining.
Sulphur and nitrogen dioxides in the study on ambient air quality were reported to be present, but in quantities much less than specified standards. The presence of sulphur dioxide on an average was 36.47 µg/m3 in Golmuri and 39.40 µg/m3 in Bistupur.
As far as nitrogen dioxide levels were concerned, the figures stood at 48.56µg/m3 and 50.11µg/m3 in Golmuri and Bistupur, respectively. But the prescribed limits for the harmful gases was 60 µg/m3.
Is there a long-term solution to reduce air pollution?