Breathing the air of Srinagar right now is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day
Although during the summers the air quality in Srinagar remains relatively good, in the fall and especially in the winter the air quality in the city deteriorates to dangerous levels, so much so that experts suggest wearing masks during outdoor activities.
According to IQ Air, an environmental literacy foundation, the concentration of PM2.5 in the air in Srinagar is currently 14.4 times the WHO annual guideline value for air quality. In 2018, Srinagar’s air was declared the 10th most polluted in the world by the World Health Organization.
“From November, we tend to have air quality problems. The air quality remains well within the permitted limits in summer and spring, but in autumn and winter it is very polluted.
During the cold months, our air is only clean when we have episodes of precipitation (rain or snow). Right now, breathing the air of Srinagar is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, ”said Mudasir Ahmad Bhat, environmental specialist and researcher based at the University of Kashmir in an interview with Rising Kashmir.
According to research published in Elsevier by Mudasir Ahmad, his colleague Shakeel Ramshoo and Gufran Beig, it was found that in winter there are days when the concentration of PM 2.5 peaks above 800 (μg / m3 ) and PM 10 reach the danger level. of 900 micrograms per cubic meter, in the air of Srinagar.
It is important to note here that the healthy level of these pollutants is capped at 60 g / m3 for PM 10 and 40 μg / m3 for PM 2.5. Therefore, the emerging numbers seem surprising. Currently, two continuous ambient air quality monitoring systems are installed in Srinagar: one at the University of Kashmir and the other at the Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Committee, Rajbagh, Srinagar .
The concentration of pollution at night tends to be higher than during the day in Srinagar and other settlements in the valley floor. According to scientists, this happens because the smoke burnt in high altitude places like Shopian, Pulwama and Tangmarg is carried to the valley floor by convection currents.
Relevantly, PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the main and most dangerous pollutants in the air of Srinagar. These two seemingly harmless particles generated by the combustion of wood, coal, industrial emissions and vehicles, etc., are extremely hazardous to health. In particular, the pollutant PM 2.5. The fine-sized PM 2.5 pollutant travels directly through the bloodstream and creates various health risks in the body, including acute respiratory distress, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and renal failure.
The common cold in Kashmir during the winter season is also mainly caused by air pollution, not the cold alone as is commonly believed.
“Since 2016, air pollution readings, as well as the situation, have remained the same with minor variations. It is a fact that our air quality is not as pristine as people like to imagine. Although we may not be able to rank it – given the data entered – our air quality is still one of the worst in the world, ”commented Shakeel Romshoo, a renowned environmental scientist.
Likely caused by pollution, at 4,750 cases per 100,000 population, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated that in one year the people of Jammu and Kashmir lose 3,039 disability-adjusted life years. and that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the highest. in India in this small Himalayan territory.
Understandably, people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are at higher risk in Kashmir during winter due to the high levels of pollutants in the air.
In research published by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, 2018, it was revealed that during the winter and fall seasons, the air quality in Kashmir often tends to be worse than that of Delhi. On average, the concentration of PM 2.5 in Srinagar hovers around 400 to 600 g / m3, while the concentration of PM10 is on average around 600 to 800 g / m3 during the cold months. At this level of particle concentration, the human body is at extreme risk from prolonged exposure. WHO recommends that everyone avoid outdoor activities at this level of particulate pollution in the air to avoid adverse health effects.
Since Kashmir is surrounded by high altitudes, the valley alone is responsible for its own pollution threat. So far, researchers have not found foreign air bringing pollutants into the pristine valley.
“Kashmir, as we know, is surrounded by mountains. When winter arrives, moisture traps particles and they remain suspended in the air. The burning of agricultural waste, hard coke and wood are the main contributors to the particle concentration in winter and autumn, ”one of the senior scientists of the Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Committee said at the time. of a conversation with Rising Kashmir.
To reduce the concentration of particles (pollutants) in the air, scientists suggest various solutions that include proper tarmac treatment of roads, dumping of agricultural waste, and clean alternatives to charcoal and wood. Also, outside of these majors, scientists suggest regulating fuel tampering by gasoline pump owners and stress the need to introduce cleaner alternatives like CNG and battery-powered vehicles.
According to Bhat, the main factor that would help reduce air pollution is the ban on burning biomass like charcoal, wood and horticultural waste. He specifies that during the previous year, more than 450 tonnes of black carbon were emitted by the horticultural sector alone.