The pollution levels in the steel town do not seem to have improved in spite of shutting down over a hundred industrial units over the past few years, going by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) data.
While furnaces and steel re-rolling units in the city were earlier blamed for the severe pollution, four years' data from the pollution control board shows that the situation has not improved in spite of the move.
The PPCB had installed three high-volume samplers in the town - at Raj Steels, United Steels and Modi Oil Mills - to take stock of the situation. Based on data from these machines, the department was to arrive at an action plan to curb pollution.
In measuring pollution, these PPCB stations record respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM), Sulphor Dioxide (So2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) levels in the environment.
Pollution data from these stations, procured by HT, showed only a small change in the pollution levels which would not bring much relief to residents.
A report from Raj Steels, a PPCB station, revealed that after a small dip in July 2013, the levels had increased again, although slightly, in July 2014.
However, data from the other two stations did not indicate significant difference.
PPCB member secretary Dr Babu Ram said that pollution due to harmful gases had been controlled by strict action and that construction sites and vehicular movement on highways were main causes for dust pollution. Saying that the department had already restricted the use of lump coal which causes gas pollution, he informed that industries were allowed to use only pulverised coal.
Ram said they had been conducting frequent checks of factories in Mandi Gobindgarh and Ludhiana to control the problem. He also informed that factories had been asked to install online monitors to be checked by the PPCB.
PPCB officials also said the reported pollution could not be called industrial pollution and claimed it was not harmful.
Data from the high volume sampler at Raj Steels
Year RSPM (Ug/m3) NOx SO2
2011 173 31 11
2012 244 38 10
2013 107 37 6
2014 134 37 7