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City pollution: road dust is villain

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K. Srinivas Reddy

HYDERABAD: Maintain the roads well and you can reduce air pollution by one third in Hyderabad.

The popular perception that citizens have a major stake in maintaining their vehicles properly to reduce air pollution has been debunked by a study conducted by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board. The board scientists found that road dust constituted a whopping 33 per cent of the total air pollution.

And the solution is pretty simple. Instead of squarely blaming the public, a policy intervention in ensuring ‘continuous and good’ maintenance of roads would check the problem to a large extent.

The study found that after the vehicular emission pollution (48 per cent), road dust took the next position by contributing a whopping 33 per cent. “Hitherto, everyone believed that 80 per cent of the air pollution was due to vehicular emissions. A little policy intervention in good and continuous maintenance of roads can reduce pollution,” Dr. K.V. Ramani, a PCB scientist said.

Road dust constitutes the fine particles that remain suspended in air. A certain portion of the road dust could be because of the loose sand flying off from lorries or the ongoing construction works, but it is mostly from the dust flying off the road as vehicles pass by. The PCB scientists took measurement of dust (PM10 and PM2.5 – denoting particulate matter less than ten and 2.5 microns). Such fine dust particles easily enter the respiratory system.

Based on the study, scientists recommend that efforts should be made to improve the percentage of commuters using public transport from existing 30 per cent to 40 per cent, introduction of MRTS and BRTS, planning of ring roads and radial roads. Other measures include synchronisation of traffic signals, removing intercepts, evolving a parking policy, lane division on roads, checking adulteration of fuel, popularising use of alternate fuels etc.

The study was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Bank. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Desert Research Institute, Nevada, U.S. provided technical support.

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