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Once rainwater dries up, dust takes over to suffocate people

By Staff Reporter
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GUWAHATI, Aug 1 - With frequent rain-induced flood floods and waterlogging throwing people�s lives out of gear in a matter of routine, its aftermath has proved no less inconvenient for the hapless citizens who have been compelled to endure worsening dust pollution in different areas of the city.

It has been observed that receding waters invariably leave a thick layer of slush on roads and roadsides, which in turn lead to severe dust pollution once those turn into dust particles under the sun. In what has emerged as a major health hazard, the dust, together with vehicular emissions, creates a dusty condition, and in more severe cases, forms a toxic haze that hangs over the atmosphere for a long period.

While this phenomenon has gripped the entire city, the Chandmari and Silpukhuri areas happen to be among the worst-hit.

�This is a harrowing experience to be living under such a choking dust pollution. This is a recurring phenomenon that happens with every burst of shower. The loose topsoil on the degraded hills gets carried to the roads and drains in the rain run-off and once the water-logging subsides, it gives way to dust pollution,� a local resident said.

Periodical monitoring of the city�s ambient air quality by the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) has also been revealing a high presence of both respirable particulate matter (RPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air, often in excess of the permissible limits.

The permissible limits for SPM and RPM are 200 micrograms per cubic metre and 100 micrograms per cubic metre respectively. Degradation of the city hills leading to accumulation of loose soil on the roads following rains, the boom in construction activities and the failure to maintain the norms aimed at checking dust pollution, growing vehicular movement and emission, have all combined to worsen the dust pollution in Guwahati.

A PCBA source, while terming the trend of dust pollution as worrying, said that dust pollution normally showed a rising trend during the winter due to less rainfall to clean the atmosphere.

�From our ambient air quality checks, the period from November to March shows higher presence of SPM and RPM in the air,� he said.

For the people of Chandmari and Silpukhuri, and across localities below hills, however, more rains mean more dust pollution. �Heavy rains are certainly causing more dust pollution in our area because of accumulation of loose soil on the roads, and the problem is worsening by the day,� another resident said.

Besides monitoring, the PCBA recommends measures to the offenders for reducing air pollution. �We ask the Guwahati Refinery to maintain fuel quality and also arrange free pollution check-ups for vehicles. For checking vehicular pollution, however, the administration and the Transport Department should display greater commitment,� the source said.

The source rued that the government authorities were not giving much attention to implement a 21-point action plan recommended by the PCBA a few years back for reducing vehicular pollution in the city.

The haphazard urbanization process that cares little about maintaining even the basic norms of checking dust pollution during construction is another factor aggravating the situation.

Trucks carrying earth, sand, stone, etc., without any cover on those, have also been a major cause of the city�s dust pollution. Similarly, dumping of construction materials including sand, stones, cement, etc., in the open without adequate cover is typical of any construction activity in the city. The ongoing real estate boom in the city has also pushed the city�s dust pollution to alarming levels.

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Once rainwater dries up, dust takes over to suffocate people

GUWAHATI, Aug 1 - With frequent rain-induced flood floods and waterlogging throwing people�s lives out of gear in a matter of routine, its aftermath has proved no less inconvenient for the hapless citizens who have been compelled to endure worsening dust pollution in different areas of the city.

It has been observed that receding waters invariably leave a thick layer of slush on roads and roadsides, which in turn lead to severe dust pollution once those turn into dust particles under the sun. In what has emerged as a major health hazard, the dust, together with vehicular emissions, creates a dusty condition, and in more severe cases, forms a toxic haze that hangs over the atmosphere for a long period.

While this phenomenon has gripped the entire city, the Chandmari and Silpukhuri areas happen to be among the worst-hit.

�This is a harrowing experience to be living under such a choking dust pollution. This is a recurring phenomenon that happens with every burst of shower. The loose topsoil on the degraded hills gets carried to the roads and drains in the rain run-off and once the water-logging subsides, it gives way to dust pollution,� a local resident said.

Periodical monitoring of the city�s ambient air quality by the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) has also been revealing a high presence of both respirable particulate matter (RPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air, often in excess of the permissible limits.

The permissible limits for SPM and RPM are 200 micrograms per cubic metre and 100 micrograms per cubic metre respectively. Degradation of the city hills leading to accumulation of loose soil on the roads following rains, the boom in construction activities and the failure to maintain the norms aimed at checking dust pollution, growing vehicular movement and emission, have all combined to worsen the dust pollution in Guwahati.

A PCBA source, while terming the trend of dust pollution as worrying, said that dust pollution normally showed a rising trend during the winter due to less rainfall to clean the atmosphere.

�From our ambient air quality checks, the period from November to March shows higher presence of SPM and RPM in the air,� he said.

For the people of Chandmari and Silpukhuri, and across localities below hills, however, more rains mean more dust pollution. �Heavy rains are certainly causing more dust pollution in our area because of accumulation of loose soil on the roads, and the problem is worsening by the day,� another resident said.

Besides monitoring, the PCBA recommends measures to the offenders for reducing air pollution. �We ask the Guwahati Refinery to maintain fuel quality and also arrange free pollution check-ups for vehicles. For checking vehicular pollution, however, the administration and the Transport Department should display greater commitment,� the source said.

The source rued that the government authorities were not giving much attention to implement a 21-point action plan recommended by the PCBA a few years back for reducing vehicular pollution in the city.

The haphazard urbanization process that cares little about maintaining even the basic norms of checking dust pollution during construction is another factor aggravating the situation.

Trucks carrying earth, sand, stone, etc., without any cover on those, have also been a major cause of the city�s dust pollution. Similarly, dumping of construction materials including sand, stones, cement, etc., in the open without adequate cover is typical of any construction activity in the city. The ongoing real estate boom in the city has also pushed the city�s dust pollution to alarming levels.

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