If you’ve noticed an increase in the amount of smog during your early morning walks, blame it on the rise in air pollution caused by old diesel vehicles that are still running on city roads. According to officials at the Pune Regional Transport department, over 40 per cent of diesel vehicles are violating the stringent pollution norms set by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.
According to these norms, diesel vehicles that were manufactured before 2000 have to be either discontinued or converted to CNG. For a city, with a population of about 55 lakh, vehicular population has already crossed the 35-lakh mark. Raising an alarm is the fact that old vehicles run on diesel are causing many health related problems including respiratory disorders among people. “By the end of February, vehicular population in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad was 34,90,569, which has now crossed the limit of 35 lakh, said Regional Transport Officer Arun Yeola.
Yeola estimated that over 40 per cent of four wheelers, including public and private automobiles like cars, buses, trucks, tractors, rickshaws and delivery vans run on diesel. This is causing a rise in hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide in the air, leading to lung disorders. Officials from the RTO office Computer System Administration said, “68.61 per cent of the transport vehicles are running on diesel, whereas the percentage of diesel-run private vehicles is only 7.58 per cent.”
Talking about the health hazards posed by rising pollution levels, Dr Sandip Karmarkar, ENT specialist said, “Due to air pollution there is a definite rise in nasal allergy and asthma related cases. Every year there is about 5 to 10 per cent spike in the number of patients.” This trend is on the rise in tier II cities such as Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad and Bangalore, where vehicular traffic is increasing due to population influx.
Mangesh Dighe, Environment Officer, Pune Municipal Corporation, said, “As more vehicles keep pouring in on city roads, it is adding to an increase of particulate matter (PM) of 10 and 2.5 microns, which is much more than the prescribed norm. Though the nitrogen oxide (NOX) level is below the standard norms, sulfur oxide (SOX) has increased over a period of time.”
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had imposed stringent norms to control air pollution in Pune city. Presently, Euro 4 or Bharat IV vehicles — that are considered to be eco-friendly — are allowed on city roads.
There are about 2.11 lakh vehicles that were manufactured before 2000 and are still in use despite heavy pollution tax imposed by the government. “In order to reduce the toxicity in diesel, a new policy of low sulfur content diesel has been made available in the city,” Dighe added.
To measure the air quality in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad region, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) has decided to install 10 air quality monitoring stations in the city. These are located at Bharati Vidyapeeth on Satara Road, Vasantdada Suger Institute —Manjari, Simla Office—Shivajinagar, Lohiya Udyan— Hadapsar, Indradhanush Environmental Centre—Navi Peth and remaining will be at Yerawada, Pimpri, Chinchwad and Bhosari area.
— Inputs by Anup Satphale