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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: With Clouds taking a leave from the skies of Odisha,  air pollution today has turned worst in the entire coastal belt and some districts in western Odisha. The air pollution level is at par with that of Rajasthan and Delhi.

A glance today at the Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) values for Odisha reveals that districts like Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Cuttack, Khurda, Puri, Ganjam, Gajapati, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Boudh, Sonepur, Deogarh, Sambalpur, Angul, and Sundergarh, have measured an AOD of 1 in the AOD scale.

Significantly, Rajasthan and Delhi have recorded the same value today. The ambient air quality of Rajasthan (for concentration of sand particles in air) and Delhi (for dust and PM 2.5, 10) are considered poorest in the country.

It needs mentioning here that  AOD is measured in a scale of 0 – 1. A value of around zero is considered good and a value of 1 is categorised as the worst pollution level. The value of 0.01 is considered the cleanest air.

The AOD data further revealed that the air pollution level in State's 14 other districts are not bad as the AOD value hovered at around zero.

Aerosols, which is a suspension of dust, smoke and pollutants in the atmosphere, are considered a proxy for surface particulate matters (SPM 2.5). Such a high concentration is considered dangerous, because, it has the potential to absorb or scatter the sunlight. The carbon particles in the suspension absorb the sunlight that would then lead to a rise in temperature, which is technically described as global warming.

Met experts are of the view that such a high concentration of aerosols will not only impede rainfall over Odisha but can also increase the frequency of intense thunder squalls.

An analysis of data with IMD shows that the AOD value of the State has turned worse since a decade, and the disconcerting fact is in tandem with the deterioration, the frequency of lightning strikes has increased over the Odisha landscape.

As per  Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) sources, the level of PM 2.5 for 14 cities in the said districts is above the NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standard) value, except for 4 cities.

The PM 2.5 value for Bhubaneswar is recorded at around 36. The highest value of around 57 was recorded in Kalinganagar, revealed OPSCB sources. The sources, however, added that the worst AOD in Odisha is mainly due to high dust concentration than PM 2.5 in air. And the sea salt is responsible for higher AOD in Puri, Kendrapada and Ganjam.

Interestingly, a GreenPeace study has observed that air pollution used to increase greatly in Bhubaneswar, Puri, Paradip, Konark and Kalinganagar during the last quarter or the period of October to December in a year.

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