Pollution remains in floodplains due to sink effect: study

: Levels of air pollution, including harmful particulate matter , are higher in and around the floodplains of the Yamuna, which should ideally be home to rich eco-systems.

The Yamuna floodplains are at the centre of an ongoing debate about their use, with environmentalists opposing a massive cultural fest that will be held there by the Art of Living Foundation from Friday.

While the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is hearing a petition filed by Manoj Misra to shift the venue of the World Culture Festival, experts are saying that the floodplains of the Yamuna have been neglected and encroached upon in Delhi.

Now, a soon-to-be-released study has found that the distribution of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and coarse particulate matter (PM10) is more in the area around the floodplains. The source apportionment study of PM 2.5 and PM10 done by the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, commissioned by the Delhi government, included a spatial distribution of the pollutants.

“As per the study, we saw that PM levels were higher along the floodplains,” said Ashwani Kumar, the Environment and Forest Department Secretary.

Mr. Kumar added pollution from human activity, vehicles and industries around the floodplains were to be blamed. Due to a ‘sink effect’, the pollution remains in the floodplains.

“Had there been more plantation in the area, the moisture would have been more. That would have made the PM settle. Planting more trees will also act as a barrier. Polluted air mass can travel for days, but trees can stop it,” said Mr. Kumar.

The Environment and Forest Department has made its intention to carry out plantation in the floodplains clear via an ongoing case in the High Court, and also informed the NGT on Tuesday that it would be open to plantation at the site of the Art of Living event.

Environmentalists say that the floodplains of the Yamuna have been allowed to be neglected over the years.

“A total of 97 sq. km of floodplains in Delhi were notified as wetland, but because of illegal construction, it has shrunk to about 65 sq. km,” said Vinod Jain, a conservationist.

The floodplains could have saved Delhi 200 million gallons of water per day had they been used to make reservoirs, said Mr. Jain.

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