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|Air pollution level
|Air quality index
| 80* US AQI
PM2.5 concentration in Visakhapatnam is currently 5.2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
Moderate 80 AQI US
|Tuesday, Mar 5
Moderate 84 AQI US
|Wednesday, Mar 6
Moderate 81 AQI US
|Thursday, Mar 7
Moderate 76 AQI US
|Friday, Mar 8
Moderate 75 AQI US
|Saturday, Mar 9
Moderate 71 AQI US
|Sunday, Mar 10
Moderate 71 AQI US
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Visakhapatnam is a city located in the southeastern region of India, on the coastline facing onto the Bay of Bengal. It has been given names such as the jewel of the east coast, or the city of destiny. With such fanciful names given, duly it is also a prominent tourist destination famous for its beaches, as well as acting as a major cargo port for the whole of India. As one would expect, with activities like tourism and transportation being of chief importance in Visakhapatnam there would also be a large amount of air pollution related to these industries.
As it stands, over the year of 2019 Visakhapatnam came in with an average reading of 44 μg/m³ in regards to its levels of PM2.5 in the air, placing it into ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of 35.5 to 55.4 μg/m³ to be classed as such. This group rating would show that the pollution levels are somewhat high, and would have detrimental effects on those who are vulnerable to air pollution, such as pregnant mothers, young children and those with respiratory related conditions.
This reading of 44 μg/m³ placed Visakhapatnam into 180th place in regards to most polluted cities worldwide in 2019, and 58th place out of all cities ranked in India over the same year. It saw a large amount of fluctuating pollution levels, with some extremely high readings followed by months of significantly improved air quality, which will be discussed in following.
The main causes of pollution in Visakhapatnam, also known locally as Vizag, have a number of differing sources, some of which are more prominent than others. As a place that experiences large volumes of both international and local tourism, Vizag would be subject to large amounts of vehicle usage, with a plethora of automobiles such as cars, buses and motorbikes moving in and out of the city, along with the large amount of industrial and recreational ships coming in to dock at the city’s ports.
Due to this, there would be a large amount of pollution coming from vehicle and ship fumes, many of which would still be relying on fossil fuels such as diesel, which can lead to a considerably larger output of pollutive haze than their cleaner counterparts. There is also the industrial sector to consider, with a large number of factories and other production plants dotted around the city’s limits, with ones such as chemical production and garment production factories being prominent.
In short, the main causes of pollution in Vizag would be vehicular and ship emissions, smoke and haze from factories, as well as the large number of industrial materials being moved through the port area, often giving off large amounts of particulate matter. With heavy loads of items such as coal being transported in large quantities, they would give off huge clouds of soot and carbon particles through their movement alone, polluting the air long before they make their way to a furnace for combustion.
With a large amount of the pollution finding itself coming from exhaust fumes, both from cars and ships, a heavy concentration of chemical compounds such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) would be present in the air, with nitrogen dioxide being particularly prominent due to the large amounts of it given off by vehicle fumes. Due to different rule regulations present of the fuel that can be used in ships, the fuels often contain higher levels of sulfur than is present in regular fuel types, and as such this can lead to higher amounts of sulfur dioxide being present in the atmosphere in areas that see high volumes of ships.
Other materials and fine particulate matter would include dangerous materials such as black carbon, found as a major component in soot as well as being produced from the improper, or incomplete combustion of fossil fuels or organic materials. As such, it would find its emission from both vehicles as well as wood stoves or open burn fires.
Breathing in black carbon has a number of detrimental effects when inhaled due to its tiny size and chemical composition, as well as being harmful to the environment due to its ability to absorb solar radiation and convert it directly to heat, causing a warming effect on the local climate in areas that see large concentrations of it. Other pollutants present, besides the chemical effluence released into the water, would be ones such dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (BCP’s), all of which are released from the burning of plastics (as well as woods and a large number of other materials), which would occur in any plastic recycling plant or factory that produces plastic products or containers.
Observing the data regarding levels of PM2.5 taken over the last few years, it is apparent that the air quality is slowly getting better. In 2017, Vizag presented with a PM2.5 average of 50.4 μg/m³. In the following year it got worse ever so slightly, with an average of 52.8 μg/m³ taken over 2018. In more recent times the average came in at the previously mentioned number of 44 μg/m³, showing a prominent drop from the year prior to it.
Whilst it is still a distance away from the World Health Organizations target goal of 0 to 10 μg/m³, the city is making steps in the right direction. As it was placed in 180th place out of all the most polluted cities in the world in 2019, it would take a large number of positive initiatives to get the city to drop its air pollution levels even further.
Regarding the PM2.5 readings taken over 2019, the months that stood out as the most polluted were January, November and December, with January taking the first-place position by a massive margin, with a reading of 129.9 μg/m³, putting it into the upper reaches of the ‘unhealthy’ rating bracket. November and December both came in with readings of 69 and 54.9 μg/m³ respectively, showing that air pollution tends to rise towards the end of the year, and peak in January of the following year. With such knowledge in mind, preventative measures should most definitely be considered, such as the use of air quality maps to stay up to date on daily pollution levels, or the wearing of high-quality particle filtering masks, both of which are available on the IQAir website.