Pollution caused by ongoing development works results in health hazards

Dust almost causes invisibility to road users on New Natham Road in Madurai on Sunday.

Dust almost causes invisibility to road users on New Natham Road in Madurai on Sunday.  

It is more than smoking a cigarette, says Pulmonologist M. Palaniappan


Construction of new bridges in the city is welcome, but at the same time as pollution caused by the ongoing development works has resulted in health hazards to road users, according to doctors at Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH).

The debris on New Natham Road up to Oomachikulam police station is posing a major health hazard. Kalavasal junction is another major point, where bridge work has resulted in chaos among vehicle users and is causing irritation to shopkeepers due to accumulated debris and other heavy metals.

At the time of commencement of the mega work on New Natham Road, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials promised to keep the stretch motorable and the contractor firm assured to sprinkle water now and then. They also gave an assurance to repair and black-top the surface where potholes had developed. However, in reality, the promises appear to have gone with the wind, road users fume.

The State government had announced construction of two bridges – one spanning about eight km at ₹ 700 crore along New Natham Road and another at Kalavasal intersection at ₹ 40 crore – and the quantum of dust crossed the permissible levels that many vehicle users have complained of respiratory problems.

According to the GRH doctors, dust and fumes from building materials, which were lying at the sites here, would affect lungs. “It is more than smoking a cigarette,” pulmonologist M. Palaniappan said, adding the atmospheric air pollution might be well above the 100 ppm in these pockets, while 50 ppm or below is considered to be quality air worth inhaling.

According to former Vice-Chancellor of Periyar University and MKU Professor K. Muthuchezhiyan, the impact of particulate or dust pollution in the city may lead to non-fatal heart attack, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and increased respiratory symptoms.

Dust pollution is most visible in Kalavasal, Periyar bus stand, Goripalayam and Palanganatham, according to a study conducted as a part of research activities. They are vulnerable and prone to particulate pollution.

It contained solid particles and the dust from a construction material from unpaved roads or bridges caused irritation to lungs. The wind turbulence in these areas, mainly released from metal-containing particles, was from frictional forces such as wear of tyres and application of brakes.

Prof. Muthuchelian said that scientific analysis revealed that pollution levels were as high as 100 microns particulate nature in cubic metre released in Goripalayam. These, he added, were due to release of silica, nitrate, sulphate and other heavy metals.

By planting saplings in these stretches, the pollution level could be reduced, Dr. Palaniappan said, and a senior physician at the GRH said special masks used by doctors handling critical patients alone had the capability to protect the nasal ways. Wearing full-mask helmets might help to an extent in protecting the hair from the dust and dirt, but inhaling the atmospheric air would cause throat irritation, he noted.

The residential welfare associations along New Natham Road have appealed to the Corporation of Madurai to inspect the construction site and advise the NHAI and the contract firm to do the needful.

According to K.S. Arjunan of Sri Nagar near Iyer Bungalow, TANGEDCO issued power shutdown details through the media to facilitate the construction of the bridge work and there was no other relief from the contract firm or the NHAI engineers to the consumers.

The absence of traffic police and lack of street lights at night have resulted in freak accidents. On many occasions, people travelling on the stretch for the first time had narrow escape. Recently, on New Year’s eve, Oomachikulam police had a tough time as many fell from vehicles as the surface was uneven. Many bikers had to be assisted by the police.

KR. Gnanasambandan, a resident of Narayanapuram, said that there was no signboard or reflector stickers to guide road users at night. It was highly dangerous to use New Natham Road as the contractors were least worried about public safety, he charged.

An engineer supervising the bridge work, however, said that they were sprinkling water periodically and ensured that the dust was under control. There were signboards cautioning the road users at select points, he said.

During the transportation of construction materials to the work sites, the contractor’s staff took adequate safety measures as per the standard operations and even blocked vehicular movement for short periods, he added.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2020 5:19:18 PM |

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