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The air pollution map for Shimla is accessed directly from the main city page. Simply by selecting the map icon will encourage a new page to open which is dedicated to the current level of air pollution in and around the city.
Once opened, the viewer will first notice the overall colour of the map. This colour is a direct indication of the air quality at that moment in time. It is currently a greenish/yellow which signifies “Moderate” air quality. The meaning of all the various colours used on the map is explained in the legend at the foot of the page. There would normally be several coloured circles spread across the map which would represent the locations of the ground-level air monitoring stations, but not all cities have these physical stations and rely instead on overhead satellite data. Shimla is one such city.
Looking back to the main city page an asterisk can be seen to the right of the US AQI number which shows the number is calculated by using satellite data. The discs on the map would show this figure at their centre. It is calculated by measuring the levels of six of the most prolific air pollutants in the city air. These are usually Particulate Matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Once determined, the figure can be used as a standard when comparing air quality in other cities around the world. It is endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
At the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2022, Shimla was experiencing a period of “Moderate” air quality with a US AQI reading of 95. The main pollutant measured was PM2.5 with a recorded level of 33.2 µg/m³. This is over six and a half times higher than the target figure of 5 µg/m³ as recommended by the WHO.
There is a lot more information available on the air pollution map for Shimla but the map needs to be viewed in full-screen mode otherwise some information could remain hidden.
When viewed this way, a table of four choices will appear down the left-hand side of the screen. These can be turned on or off individually so as to get a better understanding of what each one does.
The first option would show the positions of the ground-level air monitoring stations but as already stated, Shimla has none of these as they rely on satellite data.
The second option shows the location of any wildfires that may be burning within the vicinity. If some are seen on the map, then option four should be studied in conjunction with it. Option four shows the wind speed and direction which gives a good indication of where the ensuing smoke will travel.
The third option is very theatrical because it can change the overall colour of the map to reflect the current air quality. If some viewers find this confusing, then by deactivating it, the map colours will revert to a more subtle hue.
The rest of the information can be seen in the form of a table on the far right-hand side of the screen. This table lists other world cities according to their level of air pollution. There are only seven cities shown in default mode, but there is an invitation to explore the full ranking whereby a new page opens with many more cities listed.
The source of the polluted air is not directly shown on the air pollution map for Shimla, however, sources such as transportation, industries, construction and thermal power plants are collectively responsible for deteriorating air quality throughout the year.
Indiscriminate burning of garbage and increasing use of diesel has increased the level of pollution. It is not possible to control it without any concrete action plan made. Due to the interrupted power supply, generators are running freely in the markets. Uncontrolled construction work and dust from broken roads, pesticides and fertilizers used in agricultural work, thermal power plants and poor public transport systems have combined to turn the state into a gas chamber.
Steps are being taken to ban vehicles which are more than 20 years old from the city and the Industries Department will make efforts to reduce the pollution of factories and cement plants. Industries that cause air pollution will also not be set up in areas close to the city and at the same time, construction material will also be brought in by covered vehicles. They have also been asked to pave the unpaved portion of the roadsides in the city. At the same time, it has been asked to prepare a project to prevent pollution due to burning of agricultural and horticultural products and to make compost from those products instead.
PM2.5 are atmospheric aerosols with a maximum diameter of 2.5 micrometres. This type of suspended particulate matter is considered the most dangerous to human health. This is due to its very fine nature, and its ability to penetrate directly into the bloodstream.
PM10 is a mixture of particles suspended in the air that do not exceed 10 micrograms in diameter. It is harmful because it contains benzopyrenes, furans, dioxins and in short, carcinogenic heavy metals. According to the WHO, the limit value of the average daily concentration of this particulate matter is 50 micrograms per cubic meter, and the annual limit value is 20 micrograms per cubic metre.
It has a negative effect on the respiratory system. It is responsible for coughing attacks, wheezing, and the worsening of conditions for people with asthma or acute bronchitis. It also indirectly affects the rest of the body, including an increase in risk of a myocardial infarction and stroke. Benzopyrene is also highly carcinogenic. To conclude, aerosols of this type are very harmful to humans.