Parisar urges PMC to set up Clean Air Committee for Pune
Civil society organisations and citizens have urged Pune municipal commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad to set up the Clean Air Committee for Pune which has been mandated under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
Launched in January 2019, NCAP requires review committees to be set-up at the state and city levels.
Sharmila Deo, air quality (AQ) coordinator at Parisar said that a budget of Rs 10 crore has already been allocated by the environment ministry for this purpose. “The funds are for sweeping machines, tree plantation, electric crematorium, and awareness on air quality. There have been no expenses so far till date,” she said.
After the Covid-19 lockdown was declared there was a substantial reduction in the PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels in most of the cities across India. In Pune, PM 2.5 dropped by 32%, PM 10 by 31% and NOx (nitrogen oxides) by 63%, said Deo.
Particulate Matter (PM) is mix of suspended particles in the air, and consists of dust, fly ash. soot, smoke, aerosols, fumes and condensing vapours. 2.5 and 10 are sizes of the particles in microns, which is a thousandth of a millimetre. The effects of PM2.5 are far worse since they can penetrate deeper into the body.
Deo said, this reduction in pollution levels can clearly be attributed to reduction of vehicles on the road, stopping of construction activity, and minimal open burning.
“The city needs to be able to calculate emissions from each of the major sources. While Pune already has 10 air quality monitors set-up by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), four by Pollution Control Board, and 50 low-cost monitors installed by the Smart City Corporation, there is no common platform where this data is integrated to enable the city to take informed decisions to reduce air pollution,” Deo said.
Forecasts can also help citizens take precautions when air quality is predicted to worsen, and the city can take short-term actions to mitigate pollution in such an event, she added.
Deo pointed out that air pollution is responsible for around 4.2 million deaths globally each year mainly due to heart disease, respiratory problems, and stroke. It impacts all age groups, from senior citizens to youth, young children to even unborn babies. It affects body organs like liver, kidneys and even affects mental health.
Ranjit Gadgil, programme director Parisar, said that cities like Nagpur and Nashik have already set up these committees and convened meetings under them. “It is high time that Pune forms this committee and effective measures are taken through it. The committee should comprise various stakeholders like the PMC, State Pollution Control Board, doctors, air quality experts, Traffic department, Regional Transport Officer, and civil society organisations,” he said.