Think air pollution is Delhi's problem? Don't hold your breath! Bengaluru's air pollution levels are drifting steadily towards the danger mark too. Vehicles are the largest contributors to emissions and the volume of traffic rises every year.
Bengaluru has other problems too - solid waste management is abysmal, groundwater is contaminated and the few lakes that remain are filled with toxic waste and sewage. Public policy is focussed on accommodating cars, which is not sustainable, as more roads and flyovers are added to the melee. We need a new approach to urban planning, one that focusses on a robust public transport system, buses and a more pedestrian oriented, cycle-friendly approach., reports Aksheev Thakur
With the air quality index (AQI) worsening in the national capital region and the towns of Uttar Pradesh, there is now growing concern if Bengaluru is following suit. With the number of vehicles in the city crossing 75 lakhs, the urban infrastructure has squeezed the city’s lung space to remote locations.
The AQI in Bengaluru wavers between 100-116 in the highly polluted areas. Delhi touched the 300-mark on Deepavali, as stubble burning reached its peak. It now wavers between 200-250 on a daily basis.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 is ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’ and 401-500 ‘severe’.
Bengaluru nowhere close to Delhi
Air quality expert Mahesh Kashyap who works as a consultant with EMRI feels that Bengaluru won’t go Delhi way as the city’s weather system is different.
“We are not an industrial city. We are a service oriented city. Cracker bursting has come down drastically as awareness is fast catching up. There is no need to create a hype that the city is going the Delhi way. How many times has the AQI of the Continuous Ambient Air Monitoring System (CAAQMS) in the city crossed 250? None! Some unscrupulous elements may be pushing their agenda and trying to create fear among the public,” he opines.
The low cost monitoring sensors have observed severe AQI in several parts of the city. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has in the past stated that the low-cost sensors should not be trusted as they are not approved by the CPCB.
“KSPCB and CPCB are monitoring air with their CAAQMS that gives out accurate data. These are regulatory grade monitors and give out correct numbers. The cost of this is more than Rs. 1 crore. There are community grade sensors used by others that may be of cheap grade and also Chinese made. The data obtained by these sensors cannot be compared to the regulatory grade monitors. Community grade sensors are for community information only and not to be taken as same as regulatory monitors,” Kashyap states.
With the major sources of pollution being transport and construction, the onus is on the KSPCB for not doing enough to curb air pollution. Trees that act as natural air purifiers have been cut to pave way for major infrastructure projects and in some cases to put up advertisements.
Though the officials of the pollution board claim that the agencies have seen instances of garbage being burnt experts suggest that decongestion of the city is the way forward.
“Although the air quality in Bengaluru is not as bad as Delhi but it is quite alarming enough to impact lives and health of people breathing the air in Bengaluru. Everyone is aware of the transport situation and waste management in the city as people can smell and feel the pollution on any given day while commuting in the city,” says Sunil Dahiya, Analyst (Energy and Air Pollution), Greenpeace India.
Project Vruksha founder Vijay Nishanth says the number of vehicles have risen and clearances have been given to projects by sidelining environment issues and that Bengaluru will catch up with Delhi one day.
“We need to decongest the city. A sustainable study has to be done and planning should be done accordingly. The city cannot be pushed beyond its capacity. The KSPCB should take concrete steps and ensure that the garden city never reaches the stage of national capital region,” he adds....