On World Environment Day, there is mixed news for Chandigarh. Although the air quality of Chandigarh is better than that of adjoining cities, the level of RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) here is higher than the permissible limit, the Ambient Air Quality Data of Chandigarh shows. Experts link this to the increase in the number of vehicles in the city over the years.
The latest report by the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee shows that in some areas, the RSPM level is double the permissible limit, which is 60 microgram per cubic metre (mpcm).
Also, there is a steady increase in the level of mono-nitrogen oxides (NOx).
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To check air quality, the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee divided the city into fives zones — Sector 17, Industrial Area, Punjab Engineering College, IMTECH-Sector 39 and Kaimbwala village.
The data collected over the years indicates high level of RSPM and steady increase of NOx in all zones. Of the five zones, the Industrial Area was the most affected, followed by Kaimbwala village.
In 2014, RSPM was found to be 114 mpcm (nearly double the permissible limit) in Industrial Area, 91 mpcm at Kaimbwala, 89 mpcm at IMTECH, 80mpcm at PEC and 79 mpcm in Sector 17.
There is a slight decline in the RSPM content in comparison to 2013, where highest level was recorded at 125mpcm in Industrial Area. Experts attribute this to heavy rainfall.
As far as mono-nitrogen oxide is concerned, its level is increasing steadily in the city. The permissible limit for Nox is 40mpcm. In the city, its level is recorded anywhere between 19 and 25 mpcm. For instance, it was 20mpcm in the Industrial Area in 2010 but increased to 25 mpcm in 2014.
RSPM refers to particulate matter with diameter of less than or equal to 10 micrometres. They are produced from combustion process, vehicles and industrial sources.
Chandigarh has 9.75 lakh registered vehicles for a population of 10.55 lakh. Apart from this, the floating population of vehicles is around 1 lakh.
Dr Suman Mor, assistant professor, Department of Environment Studies, PU, said, “RSPM are finer particles which, when inhaled, can cause damage to lungs. Exposure to these can irritate lungs and can cause lung constriction, shortness of breathand cough. It aggravates asthma and other respiratory problems. She added, “People residing in high-risk areas should take precautions such as using face mask while traveling.”
Santosh Kumar, Director (Environment) & Director (Science & Tech) at UT Administration, said, “The high RSPM is still a matter of concern for us. We are trying to keep a check on it, but the ever-increasing number of vehicles is the major problem. We are trying to promote battery-operated vehicles in the city.”
He added, “The ever-increasing number of vehicles, burning of crop residue in Punjab, pollens and dust storms are the main reasons.”