Three industrial towns of Chhattisgarh have toxic air: analysis
A new air quality analysis of three industrial areas of Chhattisgarh has revealed that there is severe PM 2.5 pollution and the air is laden with heavy metals such as nickel, manganese, silica and lead.
The analysis was conducted in the industrial areas of Korba, Champa and Raipur by the State Health Resource Centre of Chhattisgarh, an autonomous body that provides technical support to the state health department. It collected air samples from these towns between January and February.
At nine sites close to coal mines and thermal power plants in the three town, samples were collected for 24 hours from roofs of houses and public health centres. Sampling revealed that concentrations of PM 2.5 (or fine, respirable pollution particles) ranged from 186 micrograms per cubic metre to 549.9 micrograms per cubic metre, which is 3.1 and 9.1 times higher than the national standard of 60 micrograms per cubic metre.
Manganese concentrations in eight of the nine samples exceeded the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) reference of 0.05 micrograms per cubic metre, and also the World Health Organization’s (WHO) safety guideline of 0.15 micrograms per cubic metre.
Nickel concentrations exceeded the WHO guideline (based on cancer risk) in all samples. Silicon concentrations too were unsafe in all the samples.
In most environments, the predominant form of silicon in ambient air is crystalline silica. Coal ash and iron and steel operations, both common to the region, have high levels of crystalline silica and could be prominent contributors, the analysis said.
Lead concentrations exceeded the US EPA standard in two out of the nine samples.
“Multiple studies have shown that there are linkages between PM 2.5 and respiratory diseases and cardiovascular problems. In addition, manganese, lead and nickel are well known toxins and their effects on human health have been well documented,” Prabir Chatterjee, former executive director of the State Health Resource Center, was quoted as saying in the analysis.
“Manganese and lead are predominantly neurotoxins while nickel is a carcinogen. The measurement of such toxic substances from the rooftops of human settlements and health care facilities is indeed a cause for concern,” he added.
The analysis recommended the government should set up specialised healthcare facilities at the polluters’ cost, under the “polluter pays” principle, to cater to health issues of residents of Korba, Champa and Raipur.
This should include facilities such as spirometry at the district hospitals.
A pollution cess is levied on units and activities not conforming to national air quality standards, the analysis suggested.
Due to the Covid-19-linked economic slowdown, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said India would further open up commercial coal mining. This would mean more emissions from thermal power plants and coal dust emissions from mines.
A report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released last week found that 70% of thermal power plants in India won’t meet new emission standards for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter by 2022, a deadline given to them by the environment ministry.
“Chhattisgarh needs to immediately find out where they stand. The new standards have to be met by 2022 but if the tendering process for emission control equipment has just started, then they will not be able to meet the deadline. There has to be a deterrence strategy for these plants to ensure they comply. On mining, there is very little information on the scale of pollution,” said CSE executive director Anumita Roy Chowdhury.