Too much construction, too many vehicles add to Lucknow’s AQI woes

Lucknow: A house and a car is everyone’s dreaLucknow, Nov 6: A house and a car is everyone’s dream, but too many houses and too many cars can also turn into a nightmare. And this is what is happening in Uttar Pradesh.m but too many houses and too many cars can also make life miserable. And this is what is happening in Uttar Pradesh.

Cities in Uttar Pradesh – apart from Kanpur which was once the industrial hub of the state — have largely been known to be clean and peaceful, with pollution being at acceptable levels.

However, in the last 15 years air pollution has emerged as a major concern and the problem is intensifying by the day.

Environmentalist Professor Venkatesh Dutta said if air pollution control measures are not taken with immediate effect, then air quality will soon turn from ‘poor’ to ‘severe.’

It has ranged in the ‘poor’ category in major cities of the state since the last one week and in the showcase cities of Noida and Greater Noida it has been in the ‘severe’ category for over a week.

A retired IAS officer, who headed the urban development department at one time, spoke to IANS on condition of anonymity. “Reckless and rapid development in cities is largely responsible for the prevailing situation where pollution is concerned. Mayawati, as chief minister, started rapid development and the others have followed suit. Wherever you go there is construction activity going on. Bungalows are being broken down and the high-rise culture has become a fad,” he said.

He pointed out that during the Covid-enforced lockdown when construction activity came to a halt, the air became much cleaner.

“Take the case of Lucknow – gardens have shrunk and memorials made of stone have come up. The state capital is growing vertically and the green cover is depleting. In outer city areas like Sitapur Road, Sultanpur Road and Rae Bareli Road, the level of construction is so intense that temperatures in these areas are also higher than elsewhere in the city,” he added.

Architect SV Agarwal, who specialises in urban planning, said, “It is ironical that, on one hand, the government is happily bulldozing buildings and, on the other, it is allowing construction. Both activities add to air pollution. It would be better if disputed buildings are used for other purposes instead of being demolished. Besides, there should be some kind of restrictions on the method of construction to prevent pollution. The use of view cutters is negligible in UP.”

Private vehicles, especially cars are another major source of pollution.

According to a recent study, 52 per cent people admit that vehicles are the main source of air pollution, followed by industries (30.5 per cent) and pollutants in the air at home or in the office (1.5 per cent).

Another official admitted that the increase in vehicular traffic was a major problem since 55,000 to 70,000 new cars were being added to the roads in Lucknow.

“The roads of Lucknow, for instance, cannot cope with the increase in vehicular traffic, particularly cars, and this leads to traffic jams. People keep the engines on during a jam and at traffic signals, which increases emissions and adds to air pollution during peak hours,” the official said.

He suggested limiting the number of cars in a family. “Earlier one family had one car, but today every member in a family has a car,” he said.

Lucknow University’s geology department head, Professor Dhruv Sen Singh said, “At present, there is no moisture in the air that can trap dust particles/pollutants as humid air traps pollutants close to the ground, preventing them from dispersing into the atmosphere. Hence authorities should sprinkle water not only on the roads but also on the roadside trees so that the polluting particles get absorbed by the plants. Authorities should also ban construction activities with immediate effect.”

He said that sprinkling water in just a few locations will not help and called for a pan-city drive.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, are of the opinion that the government needs to take a holistic approach to the problem that will worsen in the coming years.

Officials in the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) admit that action against offenders needs to be firmed up.

“Pollution is not a problem for governments unless it becomes life-threatening,” said an official.

Pulmonologists meanwhile say that pollution is life-threatening, especially for the young living in highly-polluted cities.

Dr Devashish Shukla, Medical Superintendent at Kalyan Singh Super Speciality Cancer Institute and Hospital, said, “Children face maximum threat in such conditions. Their lungs get affected with pollutants and by the time they reach adolescence, the problems begin to emerge. If a person suffers from comorbidities, air pollution poses a greater risk for them. Such patients need to remain more cautious.”

Well-known chest specialist Dr Rajendra Prasad said, “Air pollution has led to a drastic increase in lung-related problems, especially among the young who are more exposed to it. People tend to ignore early warning signs and come to seek medical aid only when the situation gets out of hand.”

“In the OPD, we used to get one or patients who reported to us before their due follow-up date. But today, there are a dozen such patients daily, indicating that the air pollution levels have started affecting patients,” said Professor Rajiv Garg, senior faculty with the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the King George’s Medical University (KGMU).

“The exposure to air pollution is aggravating symptoms among patients of respiratory illness. That is why many of them came much before their due follow-up date,” he said.

Former president of IMA, Lucknow, Dr PK Gupta said, “Morning walk can be delayed a bit to avoid early morning chill and smog. Wearing a cloth mask made at home while going out in the traffic can help.” IANS

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