IN THE last three years, there has been a dip in city’s air quality with scientists at the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) flashing the ‘red colour code’ on its index. The red code indicates the areas where air quality is considered dangerous. Despite the alarming indication, there has been no systematic effort to study the health impact of those being exposed to the polluted air— a worrying fact that comes forth ahead of the National Pollution Control Day, which falls on December 2.
Findings of the project SAFAR-Pune revealed an increasing trend in the concentration of particulate matter, PM10 and PM2.5, which is a sign of concern. As per the analysis, annual average of PM10 in the year 2013 was 85.88 µg/m3, in 2014 it was 92.21 µg/m3, while in 2015 it is recorded as 94.20 µg/m3.
The air quality has been dipping gradually since past three years with some pockets in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad being highly vulnerable to pollution, Dr Gufran Beig, scientist and director at System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), told The Indian Express: “We have noted that episodes of ‘poor’ air quality have shot up over the last few years.” The episodes of dipping air quality have increased with time, SAFAR scientists said.
SAFAR is run by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology with the support of Indian Meteorological Department and predicts the quality of air. The ratings are colour coded — green indicates ‘good’ air quality where there is no risk of air pollution; red indicates dangerous air quality. SAFAR monitors and predicts air quality at 10 locations in Pune using advanced online automatic optical analysers that stick to strict international protocol for maintenance and QA (Quality Assurance) and QC (Quality Control) as per the WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) guidelines.
The air quality trend follows a pattern – it is in the permissible range during monsoon, remains from ‘good’ to moderate during summer. The hard hit period, however, is winter when pollution levels peak and air quality dips to ‘poor’ category.
There was less pollution during Diwali this year as compared to 2014, which also shows that awareness levels have increased among people. However, unusual increase in the concentration of pollutants such as PM10 and PM2.5 were recorded during the period when pollution levels were expected to be low. It is observed that this unusual increase in the pollution levels is pertaining to open garbage burning in the city, additional air pollution source introduced during the past year along with the increasing number of vehicles. Earlier, air quality used to deteriorate during few days of Diwali but now, the scenario is changing, says Beig.
Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) and (PM 10)are the dangerous pollutants. Particles less than 2.5 microns are considered more dangerous as these can penetrate into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, Neha Parkhi, senior scientific officer at SAFAR said. It has been found that Hadapsar, Shivajinagar and Lohegaon are the most polluted areas followed by Katraj, Bhosari.