New research shines light on Union Territory’s pollution problem


New research that assessed stack emissions of polluting industries in Puducherry has noted that pollutant levels were in excess of permissible limits downwind of the major industrial estates in the capital of the Union Territory.

The findings, which have been brought out in a 235-page book, evaluated air quality downwind of the seven major industrial estates and found that pollutant levels were exceeding the permissible limits prescribed for “sensitive areas” such as schools and hospitals.

The book, titled Advances in Air Pollution Profiling and Control (Springer), co-authored by S.A. Abbasi, Emeritus Professor, Centre for Pollution Control and Environmental Engineering, Pondicherry University, says that though pollutant levels remain within the permissible limits in residential neighbourhoods, they are close to the liberal cut-offs for residential areas and could soon cross those thresholds.

The other collaborators for the publication are Nihal Anwar Siddiqui and S.M. Tauseef, from the Department of Health Safety, Environment and Civil Engineering, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, and Faisal I. Khan, from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s Canada. The authors note that from just three textile mills about five decades ago, the rate of industrialisation in Puducherry since 1992 has increased manifold. It now houses 8,966 industrial units of various sizes and employment ranges — 77 large-scale, 190 medium-scale, 7,792 small-scale and 907 micro-scale units.

Air quality modelling

According to Prof. Abbasi, the book touches on field studies on ambient air pollution done at Chennai and Puducherry, air quality modelling, various impacts of air pollutants and role of vehicles/speed breakers etc. All studies assayed Suspended Particulate Matter, Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Dioxide, and even lead in some cases, depending on the context.

“However, comparisons with the 2005 survey or earlier assessments were not possible because of the lack of past data of identical depth and breadth,” Prof. Abbasi said.

There is some discussion on the need for improved models that identify the linkages between ambient air pollution, its source and variables such as meteorology and terrain traits that determine the dispersal patterns of pollutants.

The book also engages in a discussion of innovative methods to address air pollution related issues, looks at the impact of environment and health and highlights current and future research trends.

The book was formally launched by Pondicherry University Vice-Chancellor Gurmeet Singh, who noted that while all forms of pollution were harmful, the one with the most significant impact was air pollution.

While one can carry safe drinking water or dump solid waste in the dust bin, preventing air pollution is the only way to stop it from harming us, he said.

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