Pollution in the air, not in TNPCB stats
CHENNAI: The air you breathe could be much more polluted than the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) would have you believe.
A group of environment agencies, which collected data for over a year, says the board does not have enough stations to monitor ambient air quality in Chennai. The few existing stations are in the wrong places and do not provide an accurate picture of the rising pollution levels. There are no monitors, for example, near the city’s highly polluted dumping yards at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi.
At a workshop to analyze urban air quality of Chennai organized by the Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR) and Urban Emissions.Info, experts pointed out that Chennai’s air pollution levels were among the worst in the country but the city lacked a proper system to monitor the problem.
Rajesh Rangarajan, project lead of IFMR’s India Pollution Map, said monitoring by the pollution control board should be extended to the suburban areas. “Emission sources like dumpsites also need to be monitored for a better understanding of pollution in the city,” Rangarajan said.
He said the board had not installed pollution recording meters in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur despite complaints by the thousands of families living in these areas over air being filled with smoke from burning garbage.
Chennai has five ambient air quality monitoring stations run by the TNPCB. Experts say these stations do not record figures that properly reflect even air pollution levels of the neighbourhoods in which they are located because they have been set up on streets with low traffic density.
Chitra Grace, a senior epidemiologist with the Indian Council of Medical Research, said pollution monitoring standards should be revised regularly because new pollutants can enter urban environments.
“The current PM10 (particulate pollution) standard has to be revised. We should also analyze the levels of benzene and other dangerous pollutants,” she said.
UrbanEmissions.Info co-director Sarath Guttikunda said the city needed at least twice as many pollution monitoring stations. “Pollution data should be made public to help residents understand the seriousness of the issue,” he said.
TNPCB deputy director V Chandrasekar said 10 ambient air quality meters would soon be installed at major traffic intersections and five each in other cities and towns in the state.
“We have also proposed three mobile air pollution monitoring stations that are pending government clearance,” he said. He said better coordination between various government departments would improve urban air quality.
“We need a system in which information is shared between government departments,” Chandrasekar said.