What is air pollution?
“Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants.” (National Geographic)]
Trivandrum’s Air Quality Index for November 7, 2018 is 134. (AQICN.org)
How is it harmful?
Apart from the obvious breathing issues it can cause, including bronchitis, “conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution”; further, it can cause “long-term damage to people’s nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs.”
Having observed the issue keenly during my stay in this city, I have identified three main sources of localized air pollution :
- Open burning of waste
- Dust from unkempt and broken roads and muddy lanes
- Exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, carriers, buses, and other vehicles.
These three sources, if left unchecked, have tremendous potential to pollute the city to the level people feel uncomfortable walking in the open. This is despite the green cover, that this city, has at present.
Another upcoming source of air pollution is the unmanaged and ever increasing construction activities.
As Kerala is being rebuilt and the state endeavors to retain its natural charm, it is very important for administration and residents to be aware of these dangers.
What are the solutions at hand?
- To minimize burning of waste, people need to be made aware of the harms of open burning of waste and be incentivized to separate recyclable waste.
- Buyers of recyclable waste needs to be roped in to collect it from the residential and commercial units at regular intervals.
- A separate community awareness drive needs to be initiated towards reducing use of one-time plastic.
- People need to be educated on composting of wet waste.
- Municipal corporation/municipality/village panchayat needs to step in to enforce rules for stopping open burning of waste.
- To minimize dust from unkempt roads and muddy lanes, municipal corporation/ municipality/village panchayat need to ensure watering of roads and regular cleaning. At a comprehensive level, scientific planning and construction of roads needs to be undertaken.
- To minimize exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, carriers, buses, and other vehicles, regular inspection of vehicles (made possible through yearly or biannual registration check) and imposing fines at the spot by traffic police personnel (or better, a specially deployed “pollution control personnel”) on erring vehicles are possible solutions.
- At the government level, all subsidies on diesel should be reduced (except a few sensitive categories like water pumps for farmers) as it is the most polluting fuel. Specially for public carriers, such engines must be designed which are low maintenance, high performing, and least polluting.
All need to work towards it…individuals, private players, administration, and Government.