Sunday, June 8, 2008

Street side Air Pollution in India

How to protect yourself and your family from air pollution in India.

If you use the following guidelines, you and your family will inhale significantly less amounts of air-pollutants during the course of everyday life in India:

  1. While buying or renting a flat, choose one on a side street, or even better: a side street off of a side street. As long as your flat is a decent distance away from any main street AND the street on which your flat lies does not have much traffic, you and your family will experience dramatically less amounts of air-pollution inside your house.

  2. While choosing a school for your children, choose the closest good school to your house. You will be saving your kids from heaps of pollution and allergies as they comute to and from this school everyday for a decade or more. From this perspective, it makes sense to look for a house near a good school.

  3. While commuting by autorickshaw (or when you are sitting next to a window in a bus), cover your, and your kids' noses and mouths with a hankerchief. This very simple and effective technique will save you from inhaling a lot of pollutants.

  4. Do Pranayam for 10 minutes everyday to maintain lung health.

Read on to know some interesting facts about street side air pollution in India and how it affects you and your family.

There are two main kinds of air pollution on India's streets:
  1. Visible pollution comprising smoke and dust, and
  2. Invisible pollution consisting of:
    • Invisible vehicular exhaust
    • Gasses emanating from areas containing untreated sewage.

I contend that most public need NOT worry so much about the second type of pollution, especially invisible vehicular tailpipe pollution. The reason being that there has been in the past decade, (and there will be in the years to come) a dramatic improvement in the quality of vehicle engines on our streets. This, together with progressively stricter emission standards AND compliance with these standards by vehicle manufactures and owners, has meant that levels of invisible tailpipe pollution are going to keep going down at a pretty fast clip in the towns and cities across India.

The type of pollution we should really, really worry about, and guard ourselves and our kids from is the visible smoke and dust based pollution.

In the towns and cities across India, most of the visible smoke based pollution is coming from the tailpipes of lakhs of oil burning two stroke auto rickshaws and also to a large extent, from ill-maintained two-stroke two wheelers.
The emission controls that make our cars and buses run cleaner do not seem to apply at all to auto rickshaws and 2-wheelers.

The other serious kind of visible air pollution affecting us is dust based pollution. Most of this dust is construction dust coming out of numerous construction projects going on everywhere. Even within this category the worst creators of dust pollution are roadside construction works carried out by municipalities and other civic bodies. The shoddy nature of work done by the contractors on these projects leaves behind huge quantities of debris, dust and dirt, all of which is then swept up by wind and carried everywhere.

Fortunately, visible smoke and dust based pollutant have certain properties which help in protecting ourselves from these pollutants.

Both vehicular smoke and dust are heavy which restricts how rapidly they can spread away from streets and into peoples' homes, offices and schools.
These pollutants will mostly rise up and out from a busy polluted street. You can expect air quality to be very bad in your flat if it's inside a building that's on a busy, dusty street. Also, expect your kids to experience allergies and chronic bronchial ailments if they go to a school that 's on a big busy street.
Heavy pollutants such as vehicular smoke and construction dust don't exhibit a lot of quick lateral movement. Because of this reason you can expect air quality to improve dramatically, the moment you turn into a small side street of a busy main street.

Granted that with time, these pollutants will rise up and spread over a very wide area and reduce the ambient air quality of the suburban area, town or city. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about this.
What you can do very effectively is to limit the continuous and persistently damaging effect of air pollution generated in your locality on you and your children.

To achieve this, follow the guidelines mentioned at the top of this article.

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