A team of scientists from Pune assigned to assess the air quality at Lumbini,a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal,has come out with alarming pollution figures in one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. It has found that the air quality at Lumbini touches an unhealthy level with Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 (finer particles) recorded at 270 µg/m3 against the permissible level of 25 µg/m3.
The first ever air quality reporting at Lumbini has also found that the level of PM10 (bigger particles) is as high as 350 ug/m3,while the permissible limit is just 80 according to the WHO. The scientists from Pune were roped in by the WHO to assess the air quality in Lumbini after a UNESCO study found that 57 factories in the region and 15 major industries,including 11 cement factories,two steel factories,one paper processing factory and one noodle producer,could be considered hazardous for the environment in terms of their production processes and pollutant emissions.
The scientists who developed the System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) during the Commonwealth Games 2010 have been predicting the air quality in Delhi and Pune for more than a year now.
Our system provides details about oxides of nitrogen,particulate matter,carbon monoxide,black carbon and benzene present in the air. Exposure to pollutants affects human health and recently WHO has also listed air pollution as a carcinogenic, said Dr Gufran Beig,Programme Director of SAFAR.
Equipped with automatic optical analysers,the team headed by Beig and researchers Neha Parkhi,Dilip Kate,K Ali and H Trimbaki spent a month in Lumbini during each season to assess the air quality. Lumbini,an archaeologically rich and sacred site in southern Nepal,is among the four major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists and sees 0.8 million people visitors annually. Our project on heritage air quality and weather assessment for the Lumbini Protected Zone is the first to monitor levels of PM 10,PM 2.5 and ozone during different seasons of the year, said Beig. PM 2.5 is an air pollutant that severely affects health if found in high levels.