The weekend traffic ban has drastically improved the air quality of Church Street, Bengaluru’s iconic party hub.
On Saturdays, there has been a 70% to 90% drop in the quantity of PM 2.5 in air — invasive particles that pose grave health risks, according to a study by the IISc.
Starting November 7, 2020, the movement of vehicles on Church Street has been prohibited on Saturdays and Sundays for three months as part of the Clean Air Initiative project taken up by the Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) and funded by the UK’s Catapult Network.
Ashish Verma, Associate Professor of Transportation Systems Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, who is conducting the study along with DULT, said the trend in the improvement of air quality during the weekends was very clear when compared with weekdays.
A preliminary report of the survey, based on an analysis of the air quality data captured from three points on Church Street between November 6 and 30 last year, showed huge declines in particulate matters.
The bigger particulate matter (PM10) levels, which go up to 120 micrograms per cubic metre, came down to about 15 micrograms per cubic metre, a drop of 90%, during weekends.
The PM 2.5, which goes up to 100 micrograms/cubic metre on weekdays, showed a similar trend as it dropped below 10 micrograms/cubic metre. The median of the pollutant came down from about 45 micrograms to about 10 micrograms per cubic metre.
According to Verma, the data gives clear indication of the benefits of pedestrianisation and restrictions on motor vehicles, which have a wider significance for cities like Bengaluru. “We are also collecting data on changes in temperature and relative humidity. It will be part of the final report that we will submit in March,” Verma said.
Verma called for a larger study on the health benefits of such initiatives for pedestrians. “The footfall on Church Street makes it very clear that the public response is positive. There are many lessons here for city planning,” he said.
The IISc and DULT are conducting surveys to understand the response from the shops. “We are getting positive responses from them, too. We are in the process of collecting data through surveys,” he said.