Chennai: The Supreme Court’s unprecedented move to ban the registration of diesel SUVs and cars above 2000CC and levy heavy green cess on commercial vehicles in Delhi to stem the pollution is seen as warning for other high-growth mega cities, including Chennai. There is an increasing worry over the quality of air Chennaiites are breathing.
However, Tamil Nadu government is taking some drastic steps to ensure Chennai does not become another Delhi. To enhance the monitoring and improve the air quality in the state, especially Chennai, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Board is setting up 25 continuous air quality monitoring stations (CAMS) at a cost of `45 crore and the board has already floated the tenders after conducting pre-bid meeting.
It has also decided to handover the maintenance of these monitoring stations to top educational institutions, which will record, analyse and pass periodic recommendations to improve the air quality.
“We have begun the process of setting up 25 CAMS to keep a close watch on air quality across the state. Top educational institutions like IIT Madras, Anna University and Ramachandra University were chosen to maintain these stations. We finalized the list of educational institutions at a meeting on Tuesday. Tamil Nadu will be first state to have huge large network of CAMS in the country,” said TNPCB chairman Dr Karthikeyan
These monitoring stations will send the data on real-time basis. “If everything goes according to plan, we will know lot more about the air we are breathing in different area like rural, industrial, institutions etc, he said.
Karthikeyan said the data from the CAMS will be shared with health experts and air quality forecast will also be a possible, which enables us to evolve an action plan. Currently, only a handful of cities operate CAMs with limited access to the data in real time. In most of the cities, the compliance assessments are done manually under the National Ambient Monitoring Program (NAMP) monitoring just three pollutants – particulates less than 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).
As of now in Chennai, the pollution control board operates eight manual ambient air quality monitoring stations, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has three and Central Pollution Board has three CAMS in IIT, Alandur and Manali. In addition, there are 24 CAMS set-up by industries in Manali and Gummidipoodi areas whose data will be sent to TNPCB, said another TNPCB official.
“Chennai’s case is different from the trends observed in other high-growth mega cities where overall ambient air pollution is very high. But this must not breed complacency as detailed scanning of available pollution data as well as research studies point to steady and rapid increase over time, high local impacts and high traces of toxics making Chennai’s air dangerous to breathe,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment. This demands more rigorous scrutiny of air pollution profile and aggressive action in this rapidly motorizing city, she said.
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