52% rise in pollution during Deepavali

Air quality in the city continues to deteriorate during the festivities

October 23, 2017 09:47 pm | Updated October 24, 2017 07:43 am IST

 Early morning smog at Nagarabhavi on October 20.

Early morning smog at Nagarabhavi on October 20.

Firecrackers continue to be the preferred mode of celebrating Deepavali in the city, with the three-day festival seeing a significant 52% increase in air pollution.

Particulate Matter of less than 10 microns size went up to 141.7 microgrammes per cubic metre between October 18 and 20, which not only exceeds the permissible limit of 100, but is also much more than 92.7 microgrammes per cubic metre seen just a day before the festivities, shows data from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB). The board had sought to measure the impact of firecrackers by measuring data in 18 locations across the city.

Of these stations, 15 had levels more than the permissible limit as compared to just five on October 17.

The contrast becomes starker when one looks at residential areas. The biggest increase was seen in the sensitive areas around Indira Gandhi Children Health Care Centre, in residential Jayanagar, where air quality deteriorated and PM10 levels went up by 168%.

At Domlur and S.G. Halli near Basaveshwaranagar, PM10 levels more than doubled; at Kaji Sonnenahalli on the outskirts of of the city, pollution levels breached the 100 microgrammes per cubic metre mark after a 62.5% bump during Deepavali.

Efforts for a greener Deepavali fall flat

The pitch and thrust from officials for a greener Deepavali may be in vain, as the air quality in the city continues to deteriorate during the festivities.

Data from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), which monitored levels before and during Deepavali festivities in the city, shows that particulate matter of less than 10 microns in size — which have adverse effects, particularly on breathing — has increased over the past three years during the festival.

During comparison of PM10 level over the years, only nine of the 18 monitoring stations are used.

In 2015, the average value of PM10 (using select monitoring stations as reference) was 95 microgrammes per cubic metre. This increased to 124 in 2016. This year’s level was 126 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.

However, KSPCB notes that it had increased perceptibly in five monitoring stations when compared to last year — with up to 41% increase from last year at NIMHANS on Hosur Road.

“(The rise is due to) release of fine dust due to bursting of fire crackers, dry spell resulting in re-suspension of road dust and other activities,” said a KSPCB release.

KSPCB officials insisted that while the prevalence of bursting fire crackers had reduced this year, weather conditions were not conducive towards dispersal. In 2014 and 2015, rainfall subdued the polluting impact of firecrackers. However, in 2016 and 2017, weather remained still, allowing for the formation of mist in the mornings while pollutants too hover around.

“This is called inversion effect, where pollutants tend to accumulate close to the ground rather than being dispersed,” said Lakshman, Chairman, KSPCB. While saying there was a clear link between increasing pollution and bursting of fire crackers, he believed there was a need to increase awareness of the human cost of bursting crackers. “(Using images of polluted lakes) we were able to curb water pollution during Ganesh Chathurthi. A similar exercise of telling the public of the impact on children and vulnerable persons is needed,” he said.

Furthermore, Mr. Lakshman said that from next year, the board would increase enforcement of the 10 p.m. deadline for bursting crackers while a Technical Advisory Committee will be formed to look into the polluting aspects of individual crackers.

Noise pollution

The sounds of intermittent crackers has marginally raised the decibel levels. While the day-time noise levels were down by 0.6%, or barely 0.3 decibels, night time noise levels were up by 5.3% or 3.3 decibels on average.

The highest percentage increase was seen around NIMHANS, considered to be a sensitive zone, where day time and night time noise levels went up by more than 10%. The night-time decibel level of 65 is significantly more than the ideal limit of 50Db in the area.

Overall, however, the average noise levels have dropped since 2014, says KSPCB.

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