Q:- Patna and Muzaffarpur were figured among the 30 most polluted cities in the world according to a 2021 World Air Quality Report by Swiss Organisation IQAir. What are the reasons for increasing air pollution in Bihar? What are the measures that should be taken to control it?

Air pollution is the contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. (World Health Organisation). There are many different types of air pollutants, such as gases (such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, methane, carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons), particulates (both organic and inorganic), and biological molecules.

Particulate matter (PM)

The particles that pollute the air by being suspended can be defined as particulate pollutants.

• Particulate matter consists of a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances suspended in the air (WHO). These particles may include dust, dirt, smoke, drops of liquid etc.

• These are irregular but assumed circular particles judged by their diameter for example PM 2.5 and PM 10. PM10 includes particles less than 10 micron (µm) in diameter, PM2. 5 those less than 2.5 µm.

• PM 2.5 particles (2.5 µm or less) are declared as one of the most harmful particulate pollutants by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

• It has in-situ and ex-situ sources such as road dust, construction, sand particles etc. This pollutant is one of the serious problems.

World Air Quality Report

• The cities of Patna and Muzaffarpur in Bihar have figured among the 30 most polluted cities in the world and ranked 21 and 27, respectively, according to a 2021 World Air Quality Report by Swiss organisation IQAir.

• As per the report, not only the ranking has plunged but the overall concentration of ambient airborne PM 2.5 has also increased.

• Patna had a PM2.5 concentration of 78.2 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) in 2021, which has risen by 14.3 per cent when compared to 68.4 ug/m³ in the previous year.

• Similarly, Muzaffarpur’s PM2.5 concentration of 82.9 ug/m³ in 2021, rose from 74.3 ug/m³ in 2020.

• The report also says that air pollution has cost an estimated 1,600 deaths in Patna in 2021.

Reason for pollution in Bihar

According to the The Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB), brick kilns are one of the major contributors to air pollution. As per available data, 14% of air pollution in the state is caused by brick kilns while 22% is caused by domestic burning. Transportation causes 19% pollution, dust 15%, industry 14%, waste burning 11% and diesel generator sets 5%.

• Construction: Extreme construction and developmental projects lead to the addition of a large quantity of aerosol in the air. For example, dust, emission from construction machines etc.

• Heavy traffic: Slow movement of vehicles generates higher carbon and sulphur compounds in gaseous form leading to air pollution. Moreover, these days more and more people are using all sorts of vehicles that run on fossil fuel and contribute to air pollution.

• Household: The continued usage of solid fuel in the form of wood and cow dung cakes on traditional cookstoves causes extremely high exposure to particulate pollution.

• Chimneys: Patna also has a large number of brick kilns within its city limits. As per a 2014 study, more than 225 brick kiln units line the approach roads to Patna on the east and on its western sides. More kilns are present on the northern bank of the Ganga River. Some kilns also use traditional methods which give rise to more emissions. Together, these contribute around 2350 tonnes of PM 2.5 emissions to Patna’s air annually.

Open Waste disposal: Solid waste and biomedical waste in both government and private hospitals is being burnt in the open leading to emission of poisonous gases in the air. There are very few units for disposing bio-medical waste in the state located in Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Patna, Buxar etc which are not enough.

Government initiative
• Monitoring stations: Bihar has 11 Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring stations in the state located at Patna (6), Gaya (2), Muzaffarpur (2) and Vaishali (1) districts to monitor the status of air pollution in the state. .
• Jal Jeevan Hariyali mission – Under this plan, water conservation and tree plantation are promoted and an effort to protect the environment is made. Farmers are given up to Rs 75000 subsidy after applying online under this scheme.
• Initiatives by BSPCB: The Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) signed an agreement with UNEP to frame a strategy to develop a low-carbon emission pathway in 2021.

It has also recently tied up with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) to launch a crackdown on brick kilns not following the newer zigzag technique to reduce emissions.

  • It will be implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and remote sensing technology to detect key sources of air pollution through satellite images and real-time monitoring.

  • • The Muzaffarpur model of tree plantation along with the roads to mitigate climate change. Tree plantations along the road have been done by old handicapped widows and women card holders under the MNREGA scheme.
    • CPCB guidelines: Strict enforcement of Central Pollution Control Board guidelines for construction. Use of the green screen side in the construction area.
    • Phasing out of old vehicles: Restriction on plying and phasing out of 15 years old commercial diesel-driven vehicles and hence reducing NO2 level in the air. Promotion of e-rickshaw & e- vehicles and introduction of cleaner fuels CNG/LPG.

  • Need of the hour
    Air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for seven million deaths around the world every year. The estimated daily economic cost of air pollution has been figured at $8 billion (USD), or 3 to 4 percent of the gross world product. Therefore the government needs to take some urgent steps in this regard such as:
    • Public Awareness: There is an urgent need to launch a public awareness campaign to control air pollution through print media and electronic media.
    • City-wise cap on coal use to reduce coal consumption and henceforth the emission load.
    • Spraying of water: Dust particles could be managed by regular spraying of water on under-construction roads and roads with heavy traffic.
  • • Green fuel: Ensure easy availability of affordable cleaner cooking fuels. LPG in urban areas and biogas in rural areas.
  • • Vehicles: Checking fuel adulteration through an audit system. And installation of Diesel Particulate Filters (PDF) in all vehicles.
  • • Industry: Raw materials can be changed as those releasing major pollutant particles can be banned by the government and alternatives can be used of better quality.
  • • Forecasting systems for better response to pollution can be controlled by effective pollution forecasting, monitoring systems, early warning systems and strict action plans that can significantly bring down pollution levels in the city.
  • Fighting air pollution is a public concern, so focused coordinated efforts involving all relevant parties are required. The government (federal, state, and municipal), the general public, and individuals should be taken into consideration for this, in order for the government to achieve the target of reducing the 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration in cities under the National Clean Air Programme by 2026.