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Fresh directives issued to contain pollution in B’luru

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In order to review the pollution control measures in the state, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has issued fresh instructions to all the concerned agencies in Bengaluru . The development comes as the KSPCB’s earlier drawn 41-point programme increased vehicular usage, and, waste burning and construction activities led to a sharp decline in air quality.

“Guidelines will be issued in connection with the processes to be followed in laying roads, areas where trees should be planted, identification of dust sources in addition to the other stringent measures which will be implemented to bring down the pollution,” said a senior official at the KSPCB, requesting not to be named.

The new guidelines will include intensifying existing measures as well as introducing new ones to contain pollution which has seen a sharp spike after relaxations in the Covid-19 pandemic-induced restrictions, an official aware of the matter said on Sunday.

According to the source apportionment study by CSTEP to identify the polluting sources in Bengaluru, “In the case of PM (particulate matter)10 pollution, soil dust has emerged as the top contributor with 51% share. Interestingly, the concentration of soil dust in PM10 was observed to be five times higher than that in PM2.5. The transportation sector was observed to be the next highest contributor, with a share of around 19%.”

“The secondary particulate matter contribution was 8%, followed by construction dust at 6%, while the wood combustion contribution was 6%. The collective pollution share from DG (diesel generation) sets, coal combustion, and fuel oil contribution was observed to be less than 1%,” as per the study.

The measures to contain pollution include road-side plantation for reducing dust re-suspension, use of geo-synthetic materials to cover open areas on road dividers and footpaths, reducing congestion, increasing LPG connectivity to reduce wood burning, green buffer along roads, improving public transportation and motivating more people to use it.

One of the measures also includes retrofitting heavy vehicles with diesel particulate filters. Currently, the total number of vehicles in Bengaluru stand at around 9.4 million against the population of around 12 million. Population in Bengaluru grew by 47% between 2001-2011, indicating the pressure on the existing public infrastructure.

As more and more people have been avoiding mass mobility options to reduce the possibilities of contracting Covid, the usage of private transport has become the preferred choice of commute in Bengaluru.

Before the pandemic, the number of two-wheelers registered in the city saw an 18% increase between 2017-19 while the number of construction vehicles rose by 38% and diesel-operated vehicles (such as lorries, trucks, tractors, and buses) was up from 11 to 17.5%.

Bengaluru is one of the non-attainment cities, as listed by the Union government, which is expected to reduce the PM levels from 20-30% by 2024 (with 2017 as the base year).

Activities like rise in construction, increased commercialisation and vehicle usage, encroachment of lakes and erosion of green cover has added to the decline in air and water quality.

Between 2011 and 2016, built-up area in Bengaluru rose from 38.7% to 48.6%, giving a glimpse of the rapid commercialisation in the city. Other indicators of land-use patterns show that barren land area went up from 10.7% in 2011 to 14.9% in 2016 while dense vegetation came down from 13.4% to 8.1%.

The last source apportionment study for Bengaluru was carried out in 2009 by The Energy Research Institute (TERI).

“Considering Bengaluru’s status as a non-attainment city, conducting a scientific assessment through source apportionment and emission inventory is crucial towards preparing efficient strategies,” said CSTEP research scientist Dr Pratima Singh who led the study.

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