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Goa must take measures to check fall in air quality

A study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago has found that Goans are losing 1.5 years of their life expectancy due to prevalence of poor air quality. The study has found that the state government has failed to meet air quality standards of 10 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) stipulated by the World Health Organisation. There was 9.3 per cent increase in particulate pollution in the state from 1998 to 2016. The analysis of data collected during the study showed that average life expectancy of Goans would have been six months longer in 1998 if air quality in the state met the WHO guidelines. By 2016 average fall in life expectancy had increased to 1.6 years due to increase in average particulate pollution concentrations.

Goa once boasted of clean and pure air. However, with various development projects started on a big scale in the state a few decades ago, the people have been forced to live with pollutants in the air and water. The boom in mining from 1990s and its uncontrolled operations added to the pollution, which went unchecked till closure of mining was ordered by the Supreme Court. Pollution from vehicles was considerable. Despite the knowledge of dwindling air quality, the state authorities failed to take remedial actions. There were reports of unscrupulous mining manipulating figures of air quality with gadgets installed at mining sites to record pollution levels, which was corroborated by the government agencies, but no action was ever taken against the violators. While there is lull in mining following its ban, host of developmental activities especially related to road widening and construction of bridges have been adding to the pollution levels. The problems were further compounded by huge increase in number of vehicles that are plying on the state roads.  There is possibility of thousands of Goans having fallen victims to pollution.

Studies have revealed that one of the most harmful exhaust pollutants is particulate matter, which are tiny airborne particles. It has been found that the particle size was directly linked to its potential for causing health problems. According to scientists, small particles – less than 10 micrometres in diameter – pose the greatest problems because they can get deeper into lungs, and some can even get into bloodstream. Besides, it has also been found that a significant proportion of particulate matter was made up of black carbon, which not only causes health risks but also affects the climate. The studies have also found that diesel vehicles were the main source of particulate pollution in most of the places. Goans for long have been of belief that only the mining belt was polluted. The latest revelations by the University of Chicago study should serve as an eye opener and Goans need to take steps to protect themselves, especially when pollution levels are “hazardous” and above. It would be in the interest of Goans that they adopt protection measures.

 As the study has pointed out that life expectancy is cut short mostly by particulate air pollution than all of these causes like illnesses such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS etc, there is need to take immediate remedial steps to prevent air pollution. The neglect of air pollution shown by the authorities down the decades could prove more dangerous in case they remain indifferent to the issue any longer. There is also need for a state-specific study to find out the impact of air pollution on Goans, especially among the vulnerable segments of the society. The government should order it without delay. The state government should consider the option to phase out diesel vehicles, which add to pollution. A different research study has revealed that even healthy people can be impacted by polluted air, as such it is necessary that air quality in the state is improved to WHO levels. Periodical checks should be carried out to measure air pollution and Goans must be notified about air pollution levels. The government must take all precautionary steps.

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