Gasping for clean air
Hemanathan M

Gasping for clean air

Administrative apathy and an acute lack of communication between the State Health Department, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the local body are reasons why Chennai has been breathing in toxic air for over 2 months

CHENNAI: Mother Nature may have been generous giving us the five elements – wind, water, air, fire and earth – for free but as evidenced by history, mankind’s power to abuse it can never be underestimated.

Breathing clean air is one of the most basic rights for any human being. However, with the increased industrial and commercial activities in the city, the data for air pollution reveals that people have not been inhaling clean air for over two months.

However, a senior official at the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) dismisses the allegation, and says: “Earlier, there was a sudden surge in air pollution level due to the change in wind pattern and dust formation especially in north Chennai. But for the past two months, the air pollution quality has improved, and it has been recorded below 50 microgram/m3, which has minimal impact on the people.”

Numbers don’t lie but despite such overwhelming evidence and the medically proven dangers of air pollution, it seems TNPCB is more interested in blaming the local administration for not controlling it in the city.

“TNPCB has installed 8 manual monitoring stations in industrial and residential areas in the city. But the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has 3 stations which are not installed in the same places,” alleges the official.

Criticising the civic authorities for not acting on the issue, the official explains that the board issues pollution value as per the monitoring stations, and “it’s the duty of the local body to regulate and control air pollution in the city. The department has ensured that industries follow the norms we issue,” he points out.

Additionally, the city is expected to get 5 regular monitoring stations.

On the other hand, environmental activists’ fume that the State agencies weren’t acting strictly against those who violate rules and regulations. “If the air quality in Chennai is mentioned as good as per the data by TNPCB, it should be noted where the monitoring stations are installed. If it’s installed in Besant Nagar and Tiruvanmiyur, the air pollution level will be relatively good compared to the northern part of the city – Manali and Ennore,” states Shweta Narayan, an activist.

She laments that the city is facing an environmental crisis, and that people are suffering. “Almost every day, there’s scientific research showing how toxicity in the air affects human body parts. That’s why it’s important for both pollution and health departments to be involved in controlling air pollution. But the State Health Department has not even issued an advisory,” rues Shweta.

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