ABDUL WAHAB KHAN | NT
Air quality in the state has been deteriorating alarmingly as pollution levels have spiked two times higher than the normal in Vasco and Panaji, which have become the most polluted cities followed by Margao and Mapusa.
According to ambient air quality data from the Goa State Pollution Control Board, the respirable particulate matter (also PM10), which directly affects breathing, has gone up by over two times from the national ambiance air quality standard.
In 2014-15, PM10 was recorded in Panaji and Vasco at 65-75 microgram per cubic metre: the prescribed standard is 100mpcm but desirable is 60 mpcm. PM2.5, for which the prescribed standard is 60mpcm and desirable 40mpcm, also touched an alarming high at 120-141mpcm last year in these heavily polluted cities and towns of the state.
As per the monitoring report prepared by the GSPCB, the main air pollutants for Margao and Vasco emanate from construction and demolition activities followed by road dust – and not due to vehicle emissions – resulting in rise of particulate matter (10 micrometres) in size beyond the desirable limit of 60mpcm.
Vehicle emissions and burning of waste in open are the main cause of air pollution in Panaji as a result PM 2.5 has exceeded three times in the last two years.
In 2014-15, it was 120 mpmc and in 2013-14 it had been recorded at 121 mpcm.
In 2012-13, the fine particulates consistently breached the national ambient air standards at 278 mpcm.
The data for the concentration of PM10 per cubic metre revealed that Vasco has recorded the highest level every year from November to March with the town recording on an average 70-80 microgram/cubic metre of respirable particulate matter and above 130 microgram/cubic metre of suspended particulate matter.
In Margao, PM10 has consistently remained the same since 2012; the GSPCB recorded an annual average concentration of PM10 of 80 micrograms per cubic metre while PM 2.5 was recorded within permissible limits.
Mapusa also has pollution levels which, though lower than in other towns, exceed many times the safe limits set by the central government.
It has been recorded between 44-73mpmc.
A GSPCB scientist has said the most health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 10 microns or less. This is due to the ability of the smaller particles to travel deeper into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream. Vehicles are second largest emitters of PM 2.5 pollutants after road dust. These pollutants are particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter and get deposited in our respiratory organs and are also known to be carcinogenic, leading to lung cancer.
Sources of PM 10 particles, or coarse particles, can be dirt and dust stirred up on roads by vehicles, or crushing and grinding operations. Mould, dust and pollen are examples of the particles which are between 2.5 and 10 micrometres in size, or about 25 to 100 times thinner than a human hair. The permissible limit of respirable particulate matter is 100 microgram per metric cube.
However, GSPCB chairman Jose Noronha said that though the overall air pollution has reduced drastically in the state, the levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5 are the areas they have to work on.
“We will need coordination between different departments like transport, and municipalities to bring down these levels further,” he said.
Noronha called for a number of measures like introduction of CNG for public transport, BRTS, wall-to-wall carpeting of roads to reduce dust, construction of flyovers, widening of roads, etc.
“Heavy vehicles traffic, rising number of private diesel vehicles, construction activities and industrial emissions have been impediments in improving the air quality of the port town,” he said.