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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Delhi’s pollution hotspots: DTU home to heavy vehicles, foul air

Part 3 of 5 | Though the campus of Delhi Technological University is green, it is surrounded by highly congested Shahbad Daulatpur, Samaypur, Bhalswa and Badli, which are arguably the worst neighbourhoods to live in terms of air quality

delhi Updated: Jan 12, 2018 10:17 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hinduustan Times, New Delhi
People in Bhagwanpur slums near Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar face breathing problems due to bad air quality in the area.
People in Bhagwanpur slums near Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar face breathing problems due to bad air quality in the area.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

Air pollution monitoring station inside the campus of Delhi Technological University (DTU) recorded PM2.5 levels at 740 on November 7 — almost 12 times the healthy levels. With the particulate levels so high, students inside the campus felt they were choking despite the fact that it is the only green lung in this neighbourhood.

“There is a stark difference in pollution levels inside and outside the campus. You feel it as soon as you step out of the gate. This year, however, five out of 10 students had trouble breathing when pollution peaked and complained of a sore and raspy throat,” said Divyendu Thakur, a fourth-year engineering student at DTU.

“Not only did the symptoms of students and teachers with respiratory disorders worsen. I also know of healthy friends complaining of difficulty in breathing when the pollution levels were high. But what we put up with is nothing compared to what people in the neighbouring areas have to face,” he said.

You just need to step out of the well-manicured DTU campus to see he is right. The engineering college campus is surrounded by highly congested Shahbad Daulatpur, Samaypur, Bhalswa and Badli, which are arguably the worst neighbourhoods to live in terms of air quality. Different polluting agents choke the air and wreck the health of residents with every breath.

Rising pollution mars tech university area
The monitoring station located on the campus of DTU in the Bawana area records a heavy concentration of particulate matter in the air
Bhalswa landfill
The 50-acre landfill, which completed its life-span in 2008-09, has 15 million tonnes of garbage. The methane produced from the garbage is almost always on fire, filling the basti at the foothills with smoke and adding to the area’s pollution
Along with the traffic on Ring Road, the area has heavy traffic movement due to nearby Sanjay Nagar Transport Nagar where nearly 300 trucks move in-and-out every day
Road dust
The heavy vehicles at Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar also blow a lot of dust as the majority of roads in the area are unpaved and broken
Small manufacturing units nearby
There are many ‘godowns’ and manufacturing units for rubber parts for vehicles and gas stoves, plastic items, denims and metal moulding, which are being illegally run from homes without any effluent treatment devices or checks on releasing pollutants in the air

Trucking snarls

Just 3km away from the monitoring station, around 300 trucks move in and out of Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar every day. Apart from being one of the biggest parking grounds for trucks travelling in and out of Delhi, it is also the place where most trucks in the city — and some even from across the country — are customised to suit the goods being transported.

These heavy trucks rumble in and out on unpaved roads, throwing up clouds of diesel fumes and dust. “There is dust everywhere; you feel it inside your mouth all the time. People keep talking about pollution peaking Delhi, here it is at severe levels every day. The roads are unpaved and narrow which leads to traffic jams and idling trucks even at off-peak hours, which adds to fumes,” said Gopal Singh, 38, who has been running a grocery store in the area for six years now.

The Bhalswa dumping ground, which is 4 km away from the pollution monitoring station, adds smoke to the toxic mix as piles of garbage burn and simmer through the year.

The Bhalswa Dairy neighbourhood is almost always filled with smoke, causing respiratory problems.

“When we talk about pollution in this area, the burning garbage at the dumping ground is a major source, along with the unauthorised small scale industries in Shahbad Daulatpur and Prahladpur, just 2-3km away. These industries do not follow any pollution control norms,” said Professor SK Singh, head of the department of environmental engineering, DTU.

Illegal industries

Small factories manufacturing plastic bottles, utensils and cutlery, rubber parts for vehicles, metal vessels and denims fight for space with residential houses in every lane. Many of these manufacturing units operate under the guise of godowns, where the merchandise is stored.

The manufacturing activity, however, is apparent from the cacophony from whirring machines, high-pressure waterlines spraying water, and the pervasive smell of burning rubber from behind the closed doors. Some people even have manufacturing units inside their homes, running machines using LPG-powered hot presses.

“Though everyone knows about it, it is hush-hush. Nobody wants to talk about who makes what, we all just know it happens from the smoke and the effluents,” said a resident, who did not want to be named. The proximity to Badli and Bawana industrial areas, each of which houses nearly 500 companies, further compounds the problem.

“We don’t have a choice, we live here and we will die here. And it will happen sooner than it would have if we had lived in a clean, green place,” he said.

“There is enough evidence to suggest that people living in areas with high concentration of pollution are at an increased risk of developing chronic respiratory problems like bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They are also at risk of heart diseases – including heart attack – and strokes,” said Dr Raj Kumar, head of National Centre for Respiratory Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.

First Published: Jan 10, 2018 16:31 IST

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