Despite its vast forest cover, Odisha sees worrying rise in air pollution

Bhubaneswar: Air pollutants have grasped seven cities and towns in Odisha at an alarming level owing to increased movement of vehicles, industrial activities and other sources of pollution.

The cities and towns include state capital Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Balasore, Angul, Rourkela, Kalinganagar and Talcher. As the air pollution level in these urban centres is rising relentlessly, these have been categorised as ‘non-attainment cities’.

The presence of dangerous air pollutants like PM10 and PM2.5 is at higher levels in these seven cities in Odisha.

In 2020, the annual average air quality (PM10 component) was 86 in Rourkela, 108 in Kalinganagar, 92 in Talcher, 82 in Bhubaneswar, 86 in Angul, 101 in Cuttack and 78 in Balasore.

In 2021, the air pollution level increased in almost all these towns. The PM10 was 116 in Kalinganagar, 117 in Rourkela, 105 in Talcher, 95 in Angul, 76 in Balasore, 103 in Bhubaneswar and 90 in Cuttack.

As per the AQI (Air Quality Index), Particulate Matter (PM) with a diameter less than 10 micrometres (PM10) ranging from 0 to 50 is termed as good, 50-100 is satisfactory. Above 100, it is treated as moderate.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PM10 are inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometres and smaller. Those particles are things like organic dust, airborne bacteria, construction dust, and coal particles from power plants.

However, the levels of SO2 (sulphur dioxide) and NOx in the air of these cities and towns are within prescribed limits.

Environmentalist Jayakrushna Panigrahi said, “Everyone talks about environment and pollution and its adverse impact on our society. But there are very few who are really concerned about it. First, we all have to change our mindset and reduce the use of all such products which are harmful to our environment.”

The local administrations need to take steps for complete disposal of solid waste items like plastic while the government should strictly enforce the green norms laid down for industries, he said.

As the situation became alarming, the Odisha government, following an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), has started taking steps to check air pollution. However, it seems that things are not going in the right direction.

For example, the Odisha government has banned production, sale and use of single-use plastic in the state. But rampant use of single-use plastic is going on across the state, including the capital city.

The state government has asked the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) to monitor the situation at a regular interval and take actions to check it before a Delhi-like situation arises.

Speaking to IANS, a senior official of OSPCB said, “We are contentiously monitoring air pollution levels in the non-attainment cities. The major reasons for air pollution are different in different towns. In cities like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Balasore, the increased movement of vehicles, construction activities and population rise are some of the major issues.”

In other places, industries, including thermal power plants, stone crushers, bad road conditions, transportation of mines etc. are responsible for air pollution, he said, requesting anonymity.

To check air pollution, a five-year action plan (2019-24) is being implemented in these places under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The Union government has provided around Rs 8 crore during the last financial year and another Rs 9.60 crore this year to implement the action plan, informed the official.

The municipalities are implementing the action plan under the supervision of OSPCB. Steps are being taken to install continuous air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) in these seven places of the state for real-time monitoring of pollution levels. While such stations have been set up in Rourkela and Talcher, other places will also get them soon, the official said.


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