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Telangana is a state situated in the central plains of India on the Deccan Plateau. It is the 12th most populated state in India with an area of over 43,000 square miles. Its largest city is Hyderabad with an unhealthy air quality number of US AQI 161 and PM2.5 levels of 75.1 µg/m³. The cultural centre of Warangal records much cleaner air with numbers of 112 and 40.2 µg/m³ respectively.
Manufacturing and service industries are found in Telangana state as is agriculture. Poultry farming and rice growing are major industries here. With regard to services, Hyderabad carries the nickname of “Cyberbad” due to the presence of many software companies located within the HITEC area of the city.
The State Government is currently developing specific industrial parks for certain types of similar industries. Hyderabad is also a major centre for pharmaceutical production.
In 2019 the Central Pollution Control Board published figures of US AQI 257 and PM2.5 levels of 338 µg/m³. They consider figures between 201 and 300 to be of poor quality and detrimental to public health. Exposure to pollutants such as CO, CO2, SO2 and NOx exceed permissible levels at many urban locations.
The extra-fine particulate matter on PM2.5 are particularly dangerous as they easily pass through the bodies’ respiratory system and lodge in the deepest part of the lungs. From here, they can pass through body tissue and end up in the heart, where they cause such problems as arrhythmic heartbeats and myocardial infarctions.
Lesser, but equally unpleasant effects range from fatigue, headaches, sore throat, nausea, coughing and congestion.
As stated in the World Air Quality Report, Hyderabad held the world ranking of 249 and was ranked 68th in India. It can also be noted that India in general is considered to be the fifth most polluted country in the world.
As in most major cities, the poor quality air can be attributed to industrial emissions, motor vehicle exhaust fumes and smoke produced by burning biomass in household stoves. Dust and debris from the construction industry are also major contributors. Dust particles are blown in from the countryside, especially during the dry season when the fields dry out. The dust is picked up by the wind and carried by it until the wind reached the city where the pressure drops and causes it to release the dust.
Air quality monitors which are situated near large city intersections consistently record higher readings of pollution. Vehicles slow down and wait in queues for the traffic lights to change. Even though they are encouraged to turn off their engines, they seldom do as this would also stop the air conditioning system.
The Telangana government has introduced a tree planting initiative to try and improve the air quality. A “Green “budget has been allocated for the creation of sapling plantations and their subsequent maintenance.
The Metro Rail services within Hyderabad have been extended to 56 kilometres and is used by an estimated 2.3 million commuters per day. This, in turn, will help reduce the vehicle emissions. The municipal minister openly encourages green cover throughout the city through the increase in number of public parks and gardens. Residents are taking full advantage of these green spaces as many of them include cycle tracks which is a popular type of exercise.
The local government is also encouraging factories which are currently within the city limits to relocate outside the outer ring road in the newly created industrial parks.
Air pollution does not just affect humans but also our environment. Animals, crops, forests and aquatic ecosystems are all affected by dirty air. Within the large cities, residents are being encouraged to use public transport where possible and save energy at home by turning appliances off when not in use and switching to more efficient appliances.
Dirty air also covers the leaves of plants which reduce their ability to photosynthesise and purify the air.
Renewable fuel and clean energy production are far better to the environment than the fossil fuels currently favoured. Solar energy, wind energy and geothermal production are openly encouraged.
Local governments are slowly introducing electric vehicles for use in the city centres and encouraging residents to use “green” types of transport, where possible. This could include carpooling and/or cycling.
Local government also need to address the demolition and subsequent construction of new builds. Dust shielding and the spraying of water to slake the dust is being encouraged. The contractors are also being required to take more responsibility for their site emissions. Solar-powered buildings are something to be considered in the future.
According to a recent article, Hyderabad is the worst-hit city in Central India when considering the quality of its air. The Central Pollution Control Board reported that Hyderabad had more “red” days when compared to other cities in the western and Southern regions. Red days are when levels of the fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are noticeably higher than the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended levels. PM2.5 refers to the particles which are suspended in the air and measure less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. Because of their small size, they penetrate deep into the lung tissue and cause health problems in all age groups. They are not just a cause for concern to people with existing respiratory problems, but to everyone. However the elderly and children are particularly at risk.
Despite the fact that the number of “red” days is disturbingly high, the Telangana State Pollution Control Board states that there is no cause for alarm as they are doing all in their power to keep the number of red days to a minimum.
Local residents are actively being encouraged to do what they can to control air pollution in the environment. Most people are will to pool their car with other for the daily commute and many no longer set off firecrackers by way of celebrating weddings, birthdays and other similar events.
Air pollution is an issue everywhere and India is no exception. However the pollution levels in Hyderabad are nowhere near as bad as they are in the capital, Delhi. But efforts are still needed to try and reduce it as much as possible. The Telangana State Pollution Control Board is monitoring the air quality from six online stations, and physically taking observations twice a week from records taken at 21 other stations which are spread across the Greater Hyderabad city limits. Additionally, Hyderabad Central University monitors the air quality 24/7.
The cleanest air in Hyderabad is found in Rajendranagar whilst the dirtiest is found at the Nehru Zoological Park. This is due solely to the high volume of traffic found within the area surrounding the zoological park. Rajendranagar is the home to many prominent establishments such as the Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University and National Institute of Rural Development. It has been recorded by the AQI index that levels in this area are either in the “satisfactory” or “good” categories. A “good” figure shows levels between 0-50, whilst a “satisfactory” figure is between 51-100. Further categories are moderate (101-200), Poor (201-300), Very poor (301-400) and a severe figure comes in at over 400.
In 2019, the maximum AQI figure recorded in Rajendranagar was 92 during January: the lowest being 35 recorded during July. Increased levels of pollution are usually attributed to an increase in traffic flow and also a rise in construction projects underway. These activities do not vary much in Rajendranagar and therefore keep the figures fairly constant. There are also many more green spaces in this part of the city, which experts say contribute to the cleaner air quality.
By way of comparison, the Nehru Zoological Park air quality is poor because of the increased amount of traffic which passes through the area on its way to destinations outside the city. AQI levels here remain in the “poor “category with figures from 2019 recorded as 234. The quality of air improves slightly during the monsoon season when the water washes the pollutant out of the air.
As reported in the local “Telangana Today” paper, Hyderabad is intended to become a zero-carbon city, similar to cities in China and Japan. An extension is also planned for the metro system which will include a new link to the Shamshabad airport and the Mehdipatnam area of the city. Residents are openly encouraged to use public transport instead of private vehicles, where possible. And they are increasingly aware of the results of breathing poor quality air and are willing to change their lifestyles in order to become healthier.
Improvements to the road network are currently underway which will alleviate the congestion at some of the cities’ busiest junctions. 37 new link roads have already been completed and plans for a further 11 are in the final planning stage.