Deteriorating air quality takes toll on people's health

Bengaluru city

As winter nears and the temperature begins to decline, Bengaluru not only embraces the chill air but also the accompanying deteriorating air quality. For many, winter is not really the best time of the year as the particulate matter in the air makes it difficult for them to breathe.

“During winter, the particulate matter is trapped closer to the ground surface. However the concentration is particularly high in the early morning and evening hours,” informs Dr TS Pranesha, professor from BMS College of Engineering and Principal Investigator, Bengaluru, Modelling of Atmospheric Pollution and networking (MAPAN), a project by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).

While the boundary layer for the free atmosphere is generally around 1.5-kms away, it reduces to around 600 metres during winter, he explains. “So the pollutants do not dilute and the particles and gaseous matter remains suspended in the air. However this is a global phenomena and not restricted to the city.”

According to Dr Pranesha, the concentration of pollutants in the air is at its peak between 7 to 9 am in the morning and around 8 pm in the evening.

While Bengaluru may not have the cleanest air in the country it is not in a dangerous situation as well as there are not many polluting industries here. “Precautions like using a mask while going out for a walk should help keep the particulate matters away. However not much can be done about the gaseous pollutants,” he notes.

The pollutants are a cause for many breathing disorders and in the long term, takes a toll on the lungs as well. Gangamma, who works as a sweeper, has been suffering from coughing bouts for several years now.

She says, “When I sweep the roads in the early morning”, I tend to inhale a lot of the dust. Though I cover my face while doing it, I can see a layer of dust settling on me. I always have a coughing bout in the morning while I am sweeping. It gets particularly worse in the winters,” she elaborates.

It is also particularly difficult for people to ride their bikes in the wee hours of the morning. “While riding in the winter months, breathing becomes uncomfortable. I keep spitting out dark-coloured phlegm, which is a result of the pollution,” says Balaji, a Fraser Town resident.

However, not all feel the discomfort due to the pollution. Mahesh S, a HSR layout resident, steps out for his morning jog between 5 to 6 am everyday. While he does see dense fog surrounding him at that time, he is not sure if it is a result of the pollution.

Says Mahesh: “I have not felt any discomfort due to pollution in the morning hours. The sky is not clear but I cannot be sure if it is due to the pollution. I do not feel the pollution issue is that serious in the city as there is a lot of green cover here. Even when I went out for my jog during Diwali I could not feel any toxicity in the air.”

He feels this could also be due to the place he chooses to jog. “I run around the Agara lake which has a lot of trees around. I think it is also important that we choose the right place for our morning jog as it needs to be free from pollution,” he adds.

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Deteriorating air quality takes toll on people's health

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