Pause your long breath! PMs Play Foul With Odisha Air

Bhubaneswar: With the theme of ‘Air Pollution’ this year, when the world observes the World Environment Day on Wednesday (observed on June 5 every year) the relevant query that stirs up one’s mind is who is ruling the air in Odisha?

The stunning repartee to the query then is its pollutants that are ruling the roost in Odisha air.

Though the State could record manual data of air quality in mere 14 cities, the grim numbers leave none in little doubt that the State’s air is neither pure nor fresh. Unless remedied, some five-years from now many cities in the State could grow up as sister cities of Delhi, where the air quality has been already declared as highly critical.

The Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 and 10 are together making the air foul in Odisha. These particulate matters take into shape from the combustion of fossil fuel (petrol, diesel, coal) and construction activities, which are burgeoning at a rapid pace in Odisha since last decades.

What are Particulate Matters? These are a mix-up of solid and liquid particles suspended in air, which could be organic or inorganic like dust, pollen, soot, smoke and liquid droplets. And these matters have different size, composition and origin.

While PM 2.5 and 10 values here exceeded the WHO limit by yards, they also breached the threshold level of the NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standard) set for PM-10. The NAAQS values are more generous vis-a-vis the WHO benchmarks.

As per the latest data available with the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), the ambient air quality of 14 cities measured in 2017 revealed that PM 2.5 level was nearly 3-4 times higher than WHO limit of 10 micro gram/cubic metre(cum), and values of only 4 cities were below the NAAQS norm. PM 2.5 values spiked up in Paradip but dipped in Cuttack. Bhubaneswar recorded a status quo with a value of 36 during 2014-17. But Kalinganagar recorded the highest value of 57.

However, when it comes to PM-10 values, each of the measured cities had recorded a value that is 66 per cent higher than the NAAQS set threshold.

Sample this. The annual standardised PM-10 value in the Capital city is around 100 micrograms/cum vis-a-vis the NAAQS  threshold of 60 micrograms/cum. Bhubaneswar looks to have a worse air quality than Angul, which had a PM-10 value of around 94. And Palasuni area had emerged as the spot with worst air quality in the Capital city with a PM-10 value of 113.

The sister city of Cuttack had recorded a PM-10 value of around 80, but Badambadi had the worst air quality in Cuttack with a value of around 92.

However, Rajgangpur had recorded the highest annual standardised value of PM 10 in the State. And the tourist hub and a scenic place like Konark recorded the highest monthly average value of PM-10 in Odisha.

As per a GreenPeace study, the general observation on monthly data showed that air pollution increased greatly in Bhubaneswar, Puri, Paradip, Konark and Kalinganagar during the last quarter of the year (October – December); whereas cities like Angul and Talcher had recorded worse air quality during January – April.

Amid the gloomy facts, facts of respite are the quantity of air pollutants like SO2 and NO2 levels in Odisha have remained below the threshold NAAQS limit, but not below the WHO norms which is a warning shot.