Multiple infrastructure projects turn city into a dust bowl

Many roads in Bengaluru have been dug up for pipeline replacement, for Namma Metro work, for Smart City projects, or for laying underground electricity cables.

Many roads in Bengaluru have been dug up for pipeline replacement, for Namma Metro work, for Smart City projects, or for laying underground electricity cables.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K.

Increasing number of vehicles is another contributing factor; BBMP to come up with a ‘comprehensive plan’ to tackle the problem

Dug up for pipeline replacement, for Namma Metro work, for Smart City projects, and for laying underground electricity cables, Bengaluru’s roads look the worse for wear with multiple infrastructure projects under way. The city has become a dust bowl and the dry weather is only exacerbating these conditions, prompting people in several areas to term it the city’s “dust age”. The dust and debris from the ongoing, completed, and incomplete projects are also a health hazard.

Swarna Venkataraman, member of I Change Indiranagar, said the white-topping work on 80-ft road was contributing to the dust problem in her locality. “Pollution is a big factor in addition to the lack of access to the road, which has resulted in inner lanes being jammed. We don’t understand why white-topping is being undertaken on this stretch, as another round of asphalting would have been enough,” she said.

Karnataka State Pollution Control Board officials said measures had to be taken to prevent dust, which is an acute problem, especially during the winter owing to wind flow and dry conditions. “Fine dust – PM 2.5 – is the bigger problem. The action plan for controlling air pollution in Bengaluru clearly points out to what measures should be taken. Increasing number of vehicles being registered is also worrying,” said an official.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has a road network of nearly 13,000 km, including 1,400 km of major roads.

According to the action plan, the BBMP is required to utilise mechanical sweeping machines to remove dust deposited near the edge of the kerb and beside the median. To tackle dust from roads as well as footpaths, the BBMP has planned to procure pressure jet cleaners/washers, the action plan states.

The civic body is also supposed to suppress dust by sprinkling treated water from the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board on roads in areas where dust levels are high.

“Plants of specific native species that absorb fine dust should be planted where the pollution levels are very high, such as the Central Silk Board, Whitefield industrial area, and Mysuru Road,” the action plan states.

Ravikumar Surpur, Special Commissioner, Projects and Health, BBMP, told The Hindu that the civic body and the Commissioner had “acknowledged the problem” and were coming up with a “comprehensive plan” to tackle the problem.

On Friday, a group of college students organised a free mask distribution campaign at K. Narayanapura Cross to help residents of Hennur, Narayanpura and Kothanur beat air pollution owing to various roadworks in the area.

Doctors see spurt in cases of asthma, eye allergy

The impact of excessive dust is having a telling impact on the health of citizens. Doctors The Hindu spoke to said complaints related health problems have been on the rise.

Bharath Reddy, paediatric pulmonologist and director of a private hospital, said there had been a spurt in asthma cases. “When I look for reasons, there is always a mention of roadworks or some construction activity close to their house. For around three weeks, there has been a rise in the number of cases, when usually by the end of winter, we start taking them off medication. It is not just asthma, we are also getting children coming in with eye allergy and red eyes, which are problems closely related to dust, and not the regular playground dust,” he explained.

It is not just development work and construction work. Continuous exposure to vehicular congestion will make people susceptible to health complications, said Shashidhar Buggi, former director of the State-run Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases. “The exposure is not just for one or two days. It is for two to three years. This leads to congestion in the lungs, continuous irritation, asthma, bronchitis, and even lung cancer,” he said.

Dr. Buggi pointed out that people working on these projects were the worse hit. “One can imagine their plight. They are prone to respiratory and viral infections. They need to be provided safety gear, such as masks, and regular medical check-ups,” he said.

Apart from taking up planting of trees as part of a large movement and controlling the number of motor vehicles, he said those residing close to construction sites should maintain cleanliness at home, install mesh windows and exhaust fans, and use cleaning equipment such as a vacuum cleaner. This would help especially those with allergic manifestations, he said.

Dr. Reddy, who prescribed wet cleaning twice a day as opposed to dusting, which causes air to get more polluted, keeping windows close to construction activity closed, and vacuum cleaning, said masks may not be of much help in the case of children owing to a mismatch in the size and fitting, as most masks are meant for adults.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 4:07:51 AM |

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