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Towards the end of 2018, India conducted a nationwide survey which showed thatKarnataka had the worst air quality in the whole of the south of India. It wasreported that polluted air was responsible for 95 deaths out of every 100,000people. The national average is 90 per 100,000. Over 50 per cent of deathsattributable to air pollution are younger than 70 years old. These figures takeinto account both the ambient and outdoor levels of pollution ranging fromindoor heaters and cooking stoves, industrial pollution and that created by theconstruction industry by the demolition and building of replacement properties.Pollution from the large amount of vehicles and dust, too.
The latest statistics indicate that there are more deaths caused by air pollutionthan caused by smoking tobacco products, which was formerly the worst cause.
The average ambient PM2.5 exposure (referring to the size of being less than 2.5microns in diameter) was 90 µg/m³ in 2017 and put India as the most pollutedcountry in the entire world. The highest being in the capital city of Delhifollowed closely by other cities located in the north of the country.
One of the more daunting pieces of information to be discovered was that if thelevel of air pollution were less than the recommended levels, then lifeexpectancy could be extended by 1.4 years in Karnataka and 1.7 years overall.
More and more people are becoming interested in the quality of the air they breathe.Heart and lung doctors, medical professionals, researchers and the generalpublic are all showing more concern than a few years ago. The Healthy AirCoalition monitors over 40 air quality monitors across the city of Bengaluru,and it is their intention to make this data available to anyone who isconcerned about the quality of air that they breathe.
Upper respiratory infections, cases of childhood asthma and CPD (Chronic PulmonaryDisease) are increasing at an alarming rate as are heart attacks in youngerpeople. It has been suggested that there is a link between these rises inhealth problems and the poor quality of air, but it has not been established byany authority.
Bengaluru was once known as “The Garden City” but changes have taken place to change allthis. The expansion of the urban area and with it the reduction of greenspaces, parks and trees have contributed to the rise in the amount of dust nowfound within the city. The levels of particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10 areincreasing rapidly due to the number of vehicles on the road, the burning ofwaste and dust blown into the city from the surrounding areas and also from theconstruction industry. This is worse during the dry season when the grounddries out and the prevailing winds pick up the dry earth and carry it towardsthe city.
It came as quite a surprise that despite the fact that Karnataka is considered tobe a wealthy state over 40 per cent of its residents continue to use thetraditional cooking stoves which burn solid fuel. The affluent state of Keralaalso shares this preference with 35.5 per cent preferring the old traditionalmethods.
During recent years, the trend has been towards LPG connections has increased butpublic awareness needs to be raised before this figure can be improved.Overall, 56 per cent of the total population prefer to use the traditionalsolid-fuel stoves for cooking and heating. Some households continue to use fuelwhich is made from dried cow or buffalo dung mixed with straw or leave andother combustible material. There is another danger from using this type of fuelis that the animals are fed on straw which has been contaminated by pesticideswhich pass through the animal and are present in the dung. When this is burnt,these toxic gases will be given off and potentially breathed in.
The main source of air pollution in Karnataka comes from fossil fuel used in powerstations and through vehicle emissions. These include lorries and trucks,marine vessels and aircraft. Fumes and other toxic gases are given off bylandfill sites fertilised farmland and aerosol sprays. Pollution can occurnaturally in the form of dust, methane produced by animals as they processtheir food, wildfires and volcanic activity.
The rapid development of Bengaluru combined with inadequate city planning has ledto many problems with poor air quality from pollution being one. The source of pollution can vary from city tocity but in Bengaluru statistics show that it is the amount of vehicles on theroad that account for over 60 per cent of its air pollution. This givesBengaluru the unique position of being the only city in India to be mostimpacted by vehicle exhausts.
Poor local government is the cause of other issues with regards to the regulation ofusing diesel generators to produce power and the poor treatment of waste.
The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) identified 14 areas within the city ofBengaluru, of which some are important commercial areas, as having harmfullevels of PM2.5 and PM10. The levels monitored exceeded the standard and wereover three times those figures recommended by the WHO (World HealthOrganisation).
In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that air pollution wasresponsible for over 7 million deaths, worldwide. India had the highest numberof premature deaths of any country due to its high levels of air pollution.
The local authority responsible for the control of air pollution is the KarnatakaState Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) but they lack many important factors,such as infrastructure, manpower and competence. They have over 60 per cent ofunfilled vacancies which compels each staff member to oversee up to 200factories and monitor their emissions. A truly impossible feat to execute well.Another problem is that different local governments can implement changes tothe laws if they think the changes are more suitable for their ownjurisdiction.
The way the data is collated from the different monitoring stations is substandard.The use of different information, figures and measurements make it impossibleto be understood by others who use different parameters.
The entire process must be controlled by a central body who has absolute controlover the entire operation. Several diverse fields must work together from heavyindustry, agriculture, urban and transport in order to understand fully wherethe source(s) of air pollution lies. A state-wide scheme could be introduced toencourage the participation of the general public. They need to be informed ofthe hazards associated with breathing in pollutants and the effects they canhave on health.
There needs to be some substantial changes in the way that local government controlthe situation. It has been proved that the greatest cause of air pollution in Karnatakais from vehicles using the road network. Bengaluru is the most congested cityin the state and needs new laws to redress the problem of poor air quality. Astrict policy regarding parking needs to be introduced and the taxation ofvehicles needs reforming. The inability to impose parking restrictions inpublic areas and the lack of regulations concerning “on-street” parking dolittle to persuade the general public to use public transport. It is far moreconvenient to drive a personal vehicle into the city, park it and then returnwhen suitable.
The Karnataka Motor Vehicle Taxation Act 1957 currently applies a tax to thevehicle, based on its physical size. The size of its engine, the fuel it usesand the exhaust gases it produces are currently not taken into consideration.This needs to be redressed, so smaller, more efficient cars look more appealingbecause of their low running costs when compared to the big thirstygas-guzzlers.
Another main contributor to air pollution is dust. It is inevitably produced by theredevelopment of the city. The demolition of the existing old buildings and subsequentbuilding on their replacements. Eventhough this problem has been targeted in the 2017 Municipality Building Bye-Lawsact which is applicable to all new building work. However, for some reason, itis the out-dated Act from 2003 which is followed, possibly because it is lessstrict and therefore not difficult to enforce.
It is highly recommended that anyone with a pre-existing medical condition shouldtake extreme care when venturing outside when the air quality is particularlypoor. Wearing a good quality mask is necessary in order to prevent theinhalation of particles.
Take care when exercising and limit the time outside when the air quality is knownto be bad. Do not exercise near busy road junctions where the pollution levelsare a lot higher. If suitable, try to take part in indoor activities orexercise by walking through the local shopping mall where the air is so muchcleaner.