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The latest air quality reports suggest that the air quality in the majority ofMaharashtra is improving. During the 2018-2019 period, it was noted that 65 percent of the measurements fell into the “Good” or “Satisfactory” categories.These figures showed on average a 5 per cent increase in quality when comparedto the 2016-2017 figures.This is animprovement when compared to previous years too, with a 50 per cent increase inquality.
The highlights of this report showed a 6 per cent reduction in the PM2.5 levels anda 9 per cent drop in the PM10 levels too. All regions were recorded as havingno problems with sulphur dioxide (SO2). The permissible level ofthis gas is 50 µg/m3 which was not reached anywhere during thatyear, (2018-2019).
Levels of nitric oxide (NOx) were recorded at all 72 of the stationsthroughout Maharashtra state and found to exceed the recommended limits of 40µg/m3 at 29 of them. Mainly in cities of Mumbai, Kalyan and Pune.
Other pollutants which were monitored were sulphur dioxide (SO2), lead(Pb), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3). Concentration levels of Respirable SuspendedParticulate Matter (RSPM) were found to be in excess of the Central PollutionControl Board’s (CPCB) recommended acceptable level of 60 µg/m3. Inrecent years recorded levels of RSPM have been unacceptable in the areas aroundMumbai, Kalyan, Pune and Chandrapur. These are heavily industrialised areaswhich have seen an increase in vehicular movement due to an increase in trade.
The introduction of the National Clear Air Programme was announced earlier thisyear by the central government whose main aim is to reduce air pollution inIndia by reducing the most harmful PM2.5 pollutants. The implementation of theBharat Stage VI, which is one of the most advanced emissions standards, waslaunched on 1st April 2020 and is seen by many as a positive steptowards reducing air pollution in Maharashtra.
Daily checks on pollution levels are to be conducted by local authorities and theplating of trees and other greenery is actively encouraged. The StateGovernment has also instructed the various local governments to take strictercontrol over household waste management.The formation of citizen groups has been established who can ensurelocal industries and factories are conforming to the anti-pollution measureslaid down by the government. This is especially important when the factoriesare close to densely populated areas. Not only are they required to control thelevel of harmful exhaust gases which are emitted but to also treat their sewageto an acceptable degree before discharging it into the waterways.
The general public is also encouraged to take it on themselves to use fewer fossilfuels in their homes. And to adapt to the use of clean, renewable energy, wherepossible.
A recent study of historic air quality has been conducted by the NationalEnvironmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and it has reported tohave found unsatisfactory levels of air pollution in 28 of the 73 sites itmonitored. The ambient quality of the air at these sites was classified asbeing in the “very unhealthy or worse” category. The worst sites were found inMumbai, followed by Thane, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Raigad. These are allindustrial regions which produce large quantities of pollution fromautomobiles, dust generated by the construction industry and factories.
By contrast, 13 sites recorded “good” or “moderate “readings over the same periodof time. These were at Thane, Kolhapur, Solapur, Sangli and Amravati districts.These districts do not have the same high volume of industry as the others do.
It is the intention of the state government to increase the number of monitoringstations in order to get a better idea of the air pollution in different areasof the state. Regional governors have been instructed to visit at least onemonitoring station, every month.
Three towns/cities in Maharashtra state have very dangerous levels of nitrogendioxide (NO2) which is blamed on the emissions from the manyfactories and vehicles which are found in their respective areas. Measures arebeing taken to reduce the emissions produced by private cars but the largetrucks and lorries seem to be ignored. PM2.5 and PM10 particulates are alsohigher than the recommended levels suggested by the World Health Organisation(WHO). These particles mainly come from the construction industry, both fromthe demolition of the existing buildings to the cement and brick dust createdby the new build. This can be reduced through shielding the area and sprayingwater over the area to prevent the dust from rising up into the air.Unfortunately, these measures are seldom used.
According to the latest figures released by IQAir .com, Chandrapur is the cleanest citywith a US AQI index of 68, whereas the dirtiest city is Mumbai where the figureis recorded as 152. Levels of other pollutants in Mumbai are: PM2. 5 57 µg/m³,PM10 116.1 µg/m³, ozone (O3) 12.4 µg/m³ and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)63.1 µg/m³.
There are many side effects of breathing poor quality air, they can includeirritation to the skin, the eyes, nose and throat. A headache, fatigue andshortness of breath can also be attributed to poor quality air. Poor air alsoincreases the possibility of developing asthma and allergies.
The worst possible pollutant is the microscopic particles known as PM2.5. With adiameter of less than 2.5 micrometres they can easily be breathed in where theypenetrate deep into the lung tissue and travel as far as the alveoli which aretiny air sacs found at the base of the bronchial tubes. From there they canenter the bloodstream and reach the heart. Prolonged exposure leads tobreathing difficulty and the possible development of chronic respiratorydisease.
PM10 are similar to PM2.5 but they differ in size. PM10 measure less than 10micrometres, but are still able to be inhaled and cause health problems. Theystill find their way into the bodies’ airways where they irritate the nose andthroat and cause coughing or difficulty in breathing.
The intake of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can also cause breathingdifficulties because it prevents the blood from getting the level of oxygen itneeds to function properly.
Ozone (O3) is frequently found in polluted air. Breathing this can causepain in the chest, coughing and inflammation of the airways amongst others. Itcan reduce the functioning capacity of the lungs and it can also harm lungtissue. Ozone has been proven to exacerbate emphysema asthma and bronchitis,which leads to increased medical care.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is a colourless, odourless gas which is mainlyproduced from the burning of fossil fuels. Heating appliances and diesel-poweredvehicles produce a large per cent of the sulphur dioxide found in the air. Coaland charcoal which is burnt as a form of cooking fuel at home lead to highlevels of this gas, inside the home. Industrial processes such as aluminiumsmelting steel making and the manufacture of fertiliser are also contributorsto airborne sulphur dioxide. This chemical causes respiratory problems such asbronchitis, aggravates asthma and breathing difficulties. It has also beenlinked to cardiovascular disease.
As would be expected of a state of this size, it has the largest network of roadsthroughout all of India. In 2011 the total length of highways was nearly270,000 kilometres, which includes both the national highways and the statehighways.
Buses are provided by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) whichare both reliable and economical to use. They are the preferred mode oftransportation for many people, especially if travelling between cities. Other formsof transportation include metered taxis and auto-rickshaws.
The average speed attained during a trip is relatively low at 50-60 km/h. This ismainly due to the huge amount of vehicles on the road at any one time.
Trains also play a huge role in the movement of both people and freight. There are 2main terminals in Mumbai which provide services for both long-distance traveland local journeys.
There are also airports in all the major cities in Maharashtra as well as twointernational ports in Mumbai and a further 48 ports of varying sizesthroughout the rest of the state.
Many of the public buses are older vehicles that create a large amount of airbornepollution but over the last decade, the operators have been phasing out theolder vehicles and replacing them with cleaner, more fuel-efficient ones.
In Mumbai, new legislation prevents vehicles older than a certain age fromentering the city centre in an attempt to reduce pollution.
A new expressway has been built between Puns and Mumbai which bypasses bothcities thus freeing up the road network with the metropolis.
The Indian government recognise the problem India face with air quality is asactively doing something about it.