The analysis of air quality index values compiled by the Goa State Pollution Control Board for 2017-18 has revealed that the air quality has been worsening in the cities and towns. The study found Vasco continuing to be the most polluted city in the state, followed by Ponda, Panaji, Mapusa and Margao. The study attributed the deterioration of the air quality to high density of vehicles and construction activities. Most monitoring stations recorded an air quality index (AQI) of above 100 but lesser than 200, which was classified as ‘moderate’. However the AQI recorded at a few locations was in the range of 201 and 300 which is classified as ‘poor.’ The analysis has also revealed that cities and major towns in the state – Panaji, Vasco, Mapusa, Margao and Ponda – do not comply with the annual permissible concentration of PM10 of 40µg/m³, as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. PM2.5 concentration was also found exceeding the standard limits in Panaji, Vasco and Mapusa. The study has, however, shown that the ambient air quality was within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards during the monsoon in the places where the data was recorded, which indicates that monsoon was the key factor in reducing pollution.
Vehicle emissions, dust pollution and burning of waste in the open have been the main causes of air pollution in Vasco, as a result of which the level of PM10 exceeded two times in November last year and between January and March this year. Although the concentration level of sulphur dioxide was within permissible limits of 80 mpmc, the levels of nitrogen oxide have been increasing. Although the daily prescribed standard for PM10 is 100 mpmc, it is desirable to have it around 60 mpmc. Though the air quality has not reached an alarming stage in the state, steps have to be urgently taken to see that it does not deteriorate further. Air quality recorded in some places is poor, and that should serve as a warning signal. Poor air quality could make life miserable for the sick and the senior citizens. Although monsoon has been the saving grace for the people living in identified urban places of the state from auguries of unhealthy air quality, they are forced to live with the risks of contracting diseases. Bad air quality can cause shortness of breath and aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions. It can also have adverse effect on heart and cardiovascular system.
The state has to take steps to reduce dust pollution caused by construction activity. With the demand for housing growing, construction activities would continue to grow. Besides, there are works going on for construction of roads and bridges in several parts of the state. As infrastructure development is basic to economic development, there is bound to be much more intensive activity in the sector. The movement of vehicles along the roads, where constructions are under way, leads to dust and other polluting items being carried and deposited through the length and breath. The contractors executing the works hardly use water sprinklers or screen to contain dust pollution. The government should hold a meeting with the stakeholders in both the private and public sectors in order to enforce guidelines for keeping dust pollution to the minimal level.
Citizens can contribute by refraining from burning materials, like plastic, rubber, dry leaves and waste which add to air pollution. The law enforcement to stop burning of waste has been very poor. Hardly has anyone been punished for doing that, even though it is common to see such burning going on in different parts of the state. There is no clarity on which government agency has to act in waste burning cases. A major cause of worsening air quality is automobile pollution. Goa has high income per capita; besides, public transport is not very convenient. So everyone has a two-wheeler or four-wheeler or both in order to travel to workplaces or around with their families. Consequently there is an explosion in vehicle population. Vehicle pollution can be reduced by improving public transport. Public transport in terms of bus services is highly unsatisfactory and people have to spend a lot of time to travel from one place to another. The bus operators are a law unto themselves. If anyone travels by Goa’s buses it is only because he or she has no other choice. Goans have fought to protect environment, but they do not appear to have taken air pollution seriously. It is high time Goans rise to reduce air pollution by making the government enforce regulations and making the citizens to adhere to them.