Sunday, January 12, 2014

Outdoor pollution in Bhopal

s Sultania Road was jammed with traffic I had to take a long detour to home the other day via Shahjehanabad. The air pollution there was something to be felt to be believed. The ongoing road works have made things worse for the already congested roads. I was reminded of Darya Gunj in early 1970s when passing through it one used to feel the pollution caused by automobile emissions with burning eyes and an irritated throat. That, of course, later spread to various parts of Delhi including Dhaula Kuan, Patel Chowk and many other areas. It was exactly the same feeling that I got with an old water tanker struggling up the Idgah Hills spewing voluminous dark smoke. And ditto was the case of an old auto-rickshaw that strained its every nerve to climb that hill with a gentle climb.

As it is, automobile emission in the city is on the rise. Those who do not venture out into its older parts, perhaps, are not aware of the seriousness of the problem. To this has been added the welcome move taken by the Municipal Corporation to rebuild the roads after perhaps decades. Having not been attended to for years it is taking longer than usual time with proper provision for underground ducts and things. Those who had seen the Golghar Museum a few months ago would be surprised to see a spanking new cement-concrete surface in front of it now. However, because of the road works at various crucial places of the old city traffic is being funneled through narrow passages forcing drivers to shift into low gear causing more noxious emissions.

A few months back a report of International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised agency of World Health Organisation (WHO), indicated that it had classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans. This is the first time that the experts have done so and claimed that there is sufficient evidence to prove it; the exposure to outdoor pollution causes lung cancer and they have found positive association of it with increased risk of bladder cancer. Particulate matter, a major constituent of outdoor air pollution, was evaluated separately and was found to be carcinogenic. The predominant sources of the pollution are transportation, stationary power generation, industrial and agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking.

In Bhopal, surely, the outdoor air pollution is caused mostly by transportation. With practically no check on pollution control heavily smoking heavy and light vehicles as also three and two wheelers are running around in the town with impunity. Apart from being undulated the older parts of the city are also congested on account of trade and commerce and therefore face most of the brunt of the outdoor air pollution. The civic authorities, however, are seemingly blind to the problems of a major chunk of the city’s population, including school-going children who are exposed to it every day.
Bhopal Citizen Forum had taken up the matter with the government to introduce pollution control campaign and to certify vehicles running on the road after undergoing the emission tests. The government, if I am not mistaken, was even reminded but unfortunately to no avail. I think it is now time to take the matter up with the minister concerned.

At the same time, environmental groups also need to press the government to establish systems for checking emission levels of vehicles and keep those off the roads that do not conform to national parameters. This is needed to safeguard our health and wellbeing as also of our progeny

Photo: From the Internet
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