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Debris mounds at construction sites across Delhi may impact efforts to fight air pollution

Road dust is one of the major contributors to air pollution during this time of the year pushing up PM 10 (coarse dust particle) levels – one of the prominent pollutants in the National Capital Region (NCR).

delhi Updated: Nov 01, 2018 12:34 IST
Vatsala Shrangi and Joydeep Thakur
Vatsala Shrangi and Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
delhi,air pollution in delhi,AQI
New Delhi, India - October 30, 2018: Passing traffic raises dust from a Delhi Jal Borad construction site, adding to the city’s pollution at Mother dairy plant near Patparganj in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, October 30, 2018. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times) **To go with Joydeep 'story (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Loose soil and building material at several construction sites across Delhi appear to be adding to the dust in the air, threatening to undermine efforts to fight pollution for which a construction ban will be in place for 10 days Thursday onwards.

Dhaula Kuan crossing, the Nizamuddin flyover, and Pragati Maidan were among five of the most prominent construction sites in Delhi where dug-up soil and sand swept the areas nearby – propelled by passing traffic.

As construction activities will be shut down for 10 days starting November 1 as a measure to combat ‘severe’ levels of air pollution under the Graded Response Action Plan (Grap), mounds of uncovered dug-up soil and construction waste may still push up dust levels in several hot spots across the city.

Experts said if the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for construction sites are overlooked through the 10-day halt on construction, it would lead largely mitigate the benefits of stopping construction work across the capital.

Road dust is one of the major contributors to air pollution during this time of the year pushing up PM 10 (coarse dust particle) levels – one of the prominent pollutants in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“The entire Delhi-NCR is dug-up for various expansion and utilities laying work while dust-control measures are being neglected at most sites. All of PM10 is coming from road dust. At Akshardham, a private contractor’s workshop is building on an unpaved stretch blowing away dust. In Gurugram, the GT Road expansion work is going on. We have asked agencies even today as air quality is deteriorating to impose penalties on all agencies violating green norms,” said Bhure Lal, chairperson, EPCA.

When HT visited major construction sites in the city, we found measures such as sprinkling of water on building material, covering dug-up material with green sheets and mechanised sweeping of roads as listed under Grap to control dust largely being overlooked.

These measures become particularly vital as Delhi’s air on Tuesday dipped to ‘severe’ category.

The dust menace

According to a study by IIT-Kanpur on sources of pollution in NCR, published in 2016, road dust is the biggest culprit, contributing 56% to PM10 levels and 38% to PM2.5 levels.

According to Dr Karan Madan, assistant professor, department of pulmonary medicine and sleep disorders, AIIMS, said, “With a rise in air pollution, there has been a 15-20% increase in the OPD attendance of patients complaining of throat and nasal symptoms. Exposure to dust from air pollution can affect even healthy people with symptoms of irritation, itching in the throat and nose causing escalated colds and chest congestion. All dust-generation activities must be taken up as per green norms.”

Mounds of dug-up soil at construction sites

At Dhaula Kuan, mounds of dug-up soil lay along the pavement while excavation work was being carried out at the site by the NHAI till Subroto Park police post. Heavy traffic whiffed away dust while pedestrians were seen wearing masks to cross the stretch or get up on the foot overbridge.

Shiv Charan Singh, 55, who crosses the stretch every day to go to work from Mahipalpur to Sagarpur, said, “This stretch has been dug up for almost a month now, the dust induces sneezing and irritation in eyes.”

An NHAI official said, “We have been following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and taking regular actions to minimise dust pollution.” The official said the agency would investigate if any discrepancies are found.

Meanwhile, at Mathura Road, construction waste was seen along the pavement beside the Nizamuddin flyover with a BSES signboard above it. The flyover carries heavy traffic and vehicles blow up the dug-up soil. A few metres away beyond Oberoi Hotel, another excavation was being conducted by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

Similarly, DJB excavation work is underway at IP extension near Mother Dairy. “It has been over a month that digging work has been going on here and material lying by the road,” said, Jivesh Sharma, member, Mahasangh, federation of RWAs IP Extension.

DJB said it would ensure all its construction sites would be properly covered once the 10-day ban on construction is enforced. “All construction work being done by DJB is taken up by covering the stretch of the road with signboards,” a DJB official said.

“As a responsible utility, BSES is concerned about Delhi’s pollution... We have also advised our officials and contractors to strictly follow the same... Any inadvertent aberration will be looked into on priority basis to ensure compliance,” a BSES spokesperson said.

At Pragati Maidan, near the newly-built skywalk, a large unpaved ground blew dust as vehicles moved in and out. Further digging activity was being carried out by the Public Works Department (PWD) for the tunnel project there. Officials from South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) said on Tuesday they had halted construction at this site.

PWD officials said they are regularly sprinkling water at all construction sites. “Also, we keep clearing the dug-up soil from the site.”

First Published: Oct 31, 2018 07:59 IST