Toxic air: Bengalureans gasp for breath

Despite Delhi setting an example, not much initiative taken to convert city vehicles into CNG.

Bengaluru: A number of public health issues have arisen recently in the garden city. Due to the increase in air pollution because of vehicular emissions, the health of residents in the city has taken a beating.

A study conducted by Dr. Anitha, Chinnaswamy, a lecturer in Information Systems under the supervision of Prof. Ian Marshall, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (both from Coventry University, UK) reveals that PM10 exceeds standards across all 198 wards in the city; with certain wards exceeding 3 times the permissible limit (CPCB has set the annual standard for PM10 as 60µg/m3 while the WHO recommends it as 20µg/m3) of 60µg/m3. This implies that Bangalore’s levels are 9 times above WHO guidelines.

City doctors too opine that there has been a substantial increase in cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, lower respiratory infections, trachea, bronchitis and asthma. In 2011, the vehicular population was estimated to be about 3.88 million, but by 2014, the number of registered vehicles was 5.05 million for an estimated population of 8.4 million people.

Of the total number of registered vehicles in Bangalore, 70 per cent are two-wheelers, 15 per cent are cars, 4 per cent account for auto rickshaws and 8% buses, trucks, tempos and vans. There is no accurate estimate of floating traffic into and out of the city, or of the number of illegal auto rickshaws, says the research.

Dr. Ambanna Gowda, consultant general physician at Fortis Hospital, says, “There is no doubt about the rise in diseases like allergic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, dry cough and unexplained chronic cough due to air pollution caused by vehicles. The usage of inhaled medicines too has increased. People who do field work are at the highest risk of heart and lung diseases.”

Particulate matter is dangerous to human health and can penetrate the respiratory tract by entering the nasal passages into the alveoli. Due to their excessive penetrability, they then enter deep into the lungs. These particles are then deposited within the tracheobronchial tree, respiratory bronchioles and the alveoli where the exchange of gas occurs. Eventually they enter the blood stream, causing severe health problems.

Communicable diseases spreading

Dr. Pankaj Singhai, HOD (Internal Medicine), Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, points out, “Youngsters are more prone to these diseases because their immune systems are weaker than the older generation and they spend more time in crowded and dust-prone public areas. The negative effect of indoor pollution has also increased over the years.”

The reasons are lack of proper ventilation and fungus in air conditioners. Paints, solvents and the use of pesticides on indoor plants also contribute to indoor pollution. The transitional period between seasons (climate) is when the effect of pollution is most evident. In addition, Bangalore is a damp city which makes it easier for communicable diseases to spread. “Every second person in the hospital complains of respiratory distress.”

How particulate matter hurts you

  • Transport sector’s contribution to vehicular pollution: 42 percent
  • Road dust: 20 percent
  • Domestic activity: 3 percent
  • Diesel generators: 7 percent
  • Industry activity: 14 percent
  • Construction activity: 14 percent

‘Green buses’ make slow progress

Revamping transportation systems and cleaner technologies are needed urgently, say experts. However despite examples of Delhi and Beijing, not much initiative has been taken by city authorities to reduce the impact of vehicular emissions by converting them into green fuel and CNG gas. While KSRTC have introduced 10 bio-diesel buses early this year on pilot, the BMTC has been in talks to get CNG buses for a long time, but their initiative did not see the light of day.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, (KSPCB), Chief Ramachandra says, “Directives have been issued to KSRTC and BMTC to transfer their entire fleet to CNG or any other green fuel. The banning of diesel is a policy decision which has to be made entirely by the government .” Explaining the situation about Delhi and Bengaluru he said, “Delhi and Bengaluru stand at different pedestals as far as pollution is concerned, so both cities cannot be compared. The particulate matter in Delhi is over 200 while in Bengaluru it is 150-160. The crop burning and construction activities are the major sources of pollution in Delhi. While in Bengaluru it is vehicular and road dust.”

The transport commissioner, Ramegowda, said, “In order to change the public transport to CNG, we need CNG pipelines which have not yet been constructed. Once made, we will steadily change the entire fleet of public transportation to CNG.” “We will then encourage private vehicles too, to opt for CNG.”

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( Source : deccan chronicle )
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