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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Moderate|| 91* US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Bhopal is currently 6.2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
Moderate 91 AQI US
|Saturday, Dec 9|
Moderate 95 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 10|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 102 AQI US
|Monday, Dec 11|
Moderate 98 AQI US
|Tuesday, Dec 12|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 109 AQI US
|Wednesday, Dec 13|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 111 AQI US
|Thursday, Dec 14|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 107 AQI US
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Bhopal is the capital city of the Madhya Pradesh province in India. It has an estimated urban population of almost 2 million and the metropolis covers an area of 463 square kilometers. It is thought of as one of India’s greenest cities and has several lakes (natural and man-made) within its boundaries. Towards the end of 2020, Bhopal was subject to very unhealthy levels of air pollution with a figure of 156 UA AQI being recorded which classifies the air quality as “Unhealthy”, according to recommended levels by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Bhopal is a highly polluted city due to the amount of traffic on its streets, the exponential rise in industrial output and the construction industry.
National Highway 46 forms a ring-road around Bhopal which brings a considerable amount of traffic into the city.
There is also an international airport in the suburb of Sant Hirdaram Naga which serves the entire state. There is also a comprehensive rail network which has six stations within the city limits. Bhopal has its own BRTS or Bus Rapid Transit System which has been in operation since 2013. The company operates on 12 routes throughout the city and has a fleet of 225 buses in operation every day of the year.
Healthy people can suffer because of poor air quality but not as much as other, more vulnerable groups. These include pregnant women, outdoor workers, the elderly, children under the age of 14 years and those with pre-existing medical conditions. High levels of air pollution can cause immediate problems which can include increased stress levels to the heart and lungs, which must work harder to supply the body with oxygen. Pre-existing respiratory diseases and cardiovascular problems are exacerbated by polluted air and can even cause cell damage.
Long term exposure to polluted air accelerates the ageing process in the lungs and shortens life expectancy. Diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and cancer are more likely to develop under these circumstances.
A former member of the state pollution control board, says that the level of pollution has not decreased, but because of the weather, the level of their particles in the lower level of the atmosphere keeps fluctuating. All departments must work together before a difference will be noticed. It is suggested that older vehicles that do not meet current emission standards should be taken off the road. Roads should not be worked on so frequently but should be paved quickly. Paving blocks should also be installed at the edge of the road to permanently stop the dust rising from the dry earth. It is common practice to dilute fuel with cheaper hydrocarbons in order to save money. Whilst this practice is to be discouraged, it will be hard to enforce as the poor class of people will continue to try to save money by using these cheaper, adulterated fuels.
Construction companies are required to shield their demolition sites in order to stop the spread of dust and to spray the area with water to stop the dust rising into the atmosphere.
The old city of Bhopal is home to many small and medium industries covering the manufacture of electrical goods, medicinal products, cotton, chemicals, jewellery, flour milling, weaving, painting, matches and wax manufacturing and sporting equipment. It also houses the Bharath Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), which is one of the largest engineering companies in India that manufactures coal-fired power plant boilers (among many other heavy machinery). Mandideep is another industrial suburb to the south of the city, and is the largest industrial area in the state of Madhya Pradesh, with exports worth tens of million per year. Industries in this estate include Hindustan Electro Graphite (HEG), Lupin Laboratories, and Eicher tractors. The Hindustan Electro Graphite (HEG) is the largest graphite electrode plant in the world and is the largest industrial company in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Their combined emissions contain PM2.5 and PM10, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), nitric oxide (NOx) and black carbon (BC).
During the annual festival of Diwali, the level of air pollution was higher than 300 US AQI. This was pushed so high because of the tradition of setting off fireworks and the burning of candles, lamps and incense. The local government had tried to reduce the use of fireworks during this festival but failed miserably to get the backing of the people. This has since dropped back to 154. Readings higher than 300 are classed as “Severe”, when children under the age of 14, pregnant women and those with pre-existing medical conditions are extremely vulnerable to asthma attacks and irritations of the airways. The eyes often water and the skin can become itchy.
Ground-level ozone (O3) is formed when Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) due to exposure to ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. Exposure to this compound will aggravate the respiratory system and cause bronchitis, emphysema and provoke asthma attacks.
Exposure to PM2.5 particulate matter is particularly bad as they can easily bypass the bodies’ natural defense mechanism and enter the lungs. They travel as far as the alveoli which are microscopic air sacs found at the base of the bronchial tubes. From here they can easily enter the bloodstream and get as far as the heart. Here they can produce an irregular heartbeat and even premature death. Irritation of the airways and difficulty in breathing are also associated with the inhalation of these tiny particles.
Even when exposed to these pollutants for just a short time, even healthy people become more susceptible to lung diseases, acute bronchitis and asthma attacks. Minor symptoms can include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. A feeling of tightness in the chest and the constant need to cough are also experienced as is shortness of breath.