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|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Unhealthy|| 181* US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Gwalior is currently 22.8 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
Unhealthy 181 AQI US
|Saturday, Dec 2|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 149 AQI US
|Sunday, Dec 3|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 140 AQI US
|Monday, Dec 4|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 131 AQI US
|Tuesday, Dec 5|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 130 AQI US
|Wednesday, Dec 6|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 132 AQI US
|Thursday, Dec 7|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 147 AQI US
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Gwalior is one of the major cities of India, located in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It has a significant record of having housed many different kingdoms throughout India’s history, and its location gives it some prominence in terms of its connection with other major cities, with many of them being in relative proximity to it, as well as being not excessively far from Delhi, being located some 340km south of the capital city. It has been put down as one of the cities in India to undergo a transformation into a ‘smart city’, a change that will make it an advanced technological hub and further elevate its status and quality of living.
Observing the levels of air pollution present in the early months of 2021, a less positivity story starts to emerge, with some dangerously high readings of PM2.5 present in the air. PM2.5 stands for particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, and due to this size represents a significant danger to human health, as well as being one of the major components used in the calculation of the overall air quality.
PM2.5 readings as high as 188 μg/m³ were recorded during late January of 2021, a reading that is rarely seen throughout the world and represents a significant hazard to the health of those exposed. This number would put Gwalior on that particular day into the ‘very unhealthy’ ratings bracket, which requires a PM2.5 reading of anywhere between 150.5 to 250.4 μg/m³ to be classified as such. Whilst there were days that came in with lower (albeit still high and dangerous) readings such as 51.3 μg/m³, it still stands that on average pollution readings were coming in regularly at 100 μg/m³ or above, making Gwalior a city that is indeed subject to some dangerous levels of pollution.
With readings that go up into the ‘very unhealthy’ bracket, particularly during the earlier months of the year (which, as it must be mentioned, is when many cities across India see some of their worst pollution readings, as well as the later months of the year), as the name indicates, there would be far reaching and severe consequences to those exposed, both on a long term and short term basis. Short term issues would be ones such as dry coughs, chest infections, aggravation of preexisting skin or respiratory conditions as well as irritation to the mucous membranes, with the eyes, ears, mouth and nose all being extra sensitive to chemical irritants.
More severe long term consequences would be ones such as massively elevated risks of cancer, particularly regarding the lungs and throat, as well as other chronic respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. Fine particulate matter released from a number of sources can make its way into the bloodstream via the lungs and cause widespread damage to the whole body, with the liver, kidneys and even reproductive health being affected.
Much of the pollution would come from various combustion sources, some of which will be touched on in short. The pollutants such sources release would be ones such as both nitrogen and sulfur dioxide, as well as the subsequent formation of ozone (O3), when these various oxides of nitrogen are subject to intense sunlight and solar radiation on the ground, something that Gwalior and indeed the whole of India has in abundance. Whilst ozone is an vital component in the upper atmosphere, when it is found closer to the ground, it becomes a unwanted and dangerous hazard.
Other pollutants would be ones such as black carbon and volatile organic compounds (VOC's). Black carbon is the main component in soot, and has potent carcinogenic properties when inhaled. It is often found coated heavily on areas that see a high volume of traffic, as well as nearby industrial sites or factory zones. Some examples of VOC's are chemicals such as benzene, toluene, xylene and formaldehyde, and other more noxious chemicals and toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and furans would also be found, coming from both construction sites as well as the open burning of refuse, something which can still occur in lower income districts, although is far more prevalent in rural areas as opposed to major cities.
As touched on briefly, cars and motorbikes would be a consistent producer of chemical pollutants, as well as fine particulate matter such as black carbon. So, the vehicle industry and its related emissions would be one component making up the vast wall of pollution found in Gwalior, with other sources such as coal burning in factories being a major contributor. Thousands of industrial areas continue to crop up around the city, varying in size and material production but all being major contributors to pollution. Besides the burning of coal, the use of diesel and other fuels to power their heavy machinery, these factories or industrial sites can also release their own unique type of industrial effluence depending on what is being produced, leading to a myriad of chemicals and particulate matter entering the atmosphere.
Like much of India, Gwalior may not see an improvement in its pollution levels until India as a whole has reached its maximum economic potential, an event that may still be some time in the making, despite vast forward leaps in the quality of living, urbanization and other positive initiatives that have been implemented by various cities across the country. In the meantime, pollution levels could be somewhat lessened by the gradual phasing out, or at least lowering the use of fossil fuels, with a massive over reliance on them being not only unsustainable, but also extremely dangerous for the environment and health of Gwalior’s citizens.
Emission caps placed on various industrial sites may also go a long way in combatting air pollution, with charges and fines being placed on factories, production plants or various other pollution producing businesses and sites across the cities. This would introduce an incentive for both companies and individuals to lessen their pollution footprint, as well as put a dent in the extremely elevated and thus dangerous levels of PM2.5 present in the air in Gwalior.