Thursday, December 25, 2008

Air pollution threats Ranchi city of Jharkhand State, India.

Air pollution threats Ranchi city of Jharkhand State, India.
Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

We are already seeing the effects of air pollution in Ranchi city the capital of Jharkhand State of India. It has also affected the climate. From last several years Ranchi is facing extremes of the climate. In year 2005and 2006 Ranchi had spells of excessive rainfall. In the month of February and March 2007 Ranchi faced heavy rainfall followed with hail storms which is unusual in Ranchi at this time. We have faced extremes of climate in very quick interval this year till now.

In 1960's and 1970's peoples of Ranchi (the then summer capital of Bihar Jharkhand united) rarely used fans even in summer seasons. This facts can be justified by the following statements published in Ranchi Gazetteers in the year 1970- " The climate of the Ranchi plateau is cool and pleasant. It is only during the month’s of April or May that the temperature rises occasionally. The general elevation of 2,180 feet above sea level gives it a uniformly lower range temperature than the plains."

Three decades ago Ranchi was known for its healthy climate. People from the surrounding states use to visit Ranchi and its neighbouring places for their health benefit. That time Ranchi was known for its clean air and very less pollution. Motor vehicles, the major source of air pollution, were less. In my childhood I remember that I use to count the vehicles on my fingers.

Now the Ranchi air has become highly polluted. Children are suffering from different lungs diseases. Eyes burning while driving scooter or even walking, is now a very common phenomenon. Toxic gases emitted from the automobiles are increasing many folds. Lots of trees have also been cut down for making houses, marketing complexes etc. Due to thin vegetation Ranchi is under the grip of dust pollution. Due to the dust pollution sky above the Ranchi looks pale yellow. At night very few stars are now visible. I remember when I was a child I used to admire and imagine all the stars. Sky was so neat and clean.
Most of the houses now build in Ranchi are not properly ventilated. A lack of ventilation indoors concentrates air pollution where people often spend the majority of their time. Radon (Rn) gas, a carcinogen, is exuded from the Earth in certain locations and trapped inside houses. Building materials including carpeting and plywood emit formaldehyde (H2CO) gas. Paint and solvents give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as they dry. Lead paint can degenerate into dust and be inhaled. Intentional air pollution is introduced with the use of air fresheners, incense, and other scented items.

An air pollutant is known as a substance in the air that can cause harm to humans and the environment. Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. In addition, they may be natural or man-made.

In this article I am going to discuss some of the major sources of air pollution in Ranchi city.
Following are the major sources of air pollution in the city.

1. Transportation.
2. Solid waste combustion.

After the formation of Jharkhand motor vehicles have increased many folds. Ranchi topped the list of increase in vehicle registrations in 2001-2002, the largest in buses, cars, taxis, jeeps, two-wheelers and three wheelers were recorded in Ranchi. Transportation (cars, trucks, buses etc.) is responsible for a significant percentage of criteria pollutants, such as Sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen oxides, Volatile organic compounds, Particulates, Carbon monoxide and Lead.
Emissions from an individual car are generally low. Average emission of carbon monoxide from the two wheelers varies from 0.04% to 0.10% and average emission of hydro carbons was 500 ppm in Ranchi city. But emissions from thousands of vehicles plying in the streets of Ranchi city add up, making the automobile the first greatest polluter. Main problem is with old cars especially diesel operated. In fact, driving a car is probably a typical citizen’s most “polluting” daily activity.

The sources of Automobile Emission:

The power to move an automobile results from burning fuel in an internal combustion engine. Pollution from automobiles comes from by-products of this combustion process (exhaust) and from evaporation of the fuel itself.
Fuel is burned in the cylinder of an internal combustion engine at very high temperatures (1500 degree F.). At such high temperatures, atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen combines to form nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons from un-burnt fuel, carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion, and carbon dioxide are formed. All these major pollutants are then emitted as exhaust gases into the atmosphere. In addition, the combustion of gasoline additives produces minor amounts of pollutants, such as 1,3-butadiene, benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and particulate matter, especially from diesel engines.
Concerning evaporative emissions, hydrocarbon pollutants escape into the air through fuel evaporation, which accounts for as much as 65 percent of the total hydrocarbon pollution from current model automobiles. Fuel evaporates most readily in hot weather, and fuel evaporation occurs in several ways, including:

· Daytime evaporation.
· Running losses.
· Hot soak.
· Refueling.

Gasoline vapors are always present in the fuel tanks. These fumes are forced out when the tank is refueled. In addition, gasoline vapors are emitted from the gasoline pump’s nozzle during the refueling. It not only affects the air quality but also the health of the consumers and people residing near this gasoline station. Peoples leaving near the gasoline station in Ranchi city always complain about the foul smell, nausea and giddiness. It is due to the fumes which are forced out by the owners when the tank is refueled. In above figure two wheeler is being checked for carbon monoxide emission

Solid Waste Combustion:
The emissions from solid waste combustion include carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, mercury, lead, hydrogen chloride, and minor amounts of chlorinated dioxins.
In Ranchi many areas looks like dumping ground of municipal wastes and house hold wastes. It has also been seen that these toxic wastes are burned in an open air. Open Burning" of solid waste degrades the air quality. Harmful toxins may also be released. Open burning produces unsightly and odorous smoke. Low wind speeds during these hours further compound the problem.

Wastes deposited beside the city rivulets poses more threat to environment. These wastes contain large amounts of plastics and medical wastes. Most people who burn their plastic domestic waste do not realize how harmful this practice is to their health and to the environment. Current research indicates that backyard- burning of waste is far more harmful to our health than previously thought. It can increase the risk of heart disease, aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches, damages in the nervous system, kidney or liver, in the reproductive and development system. The burning of polystyrene polymers -such as foam cups, meat trays, egg containers, yogurt and deli containers -releases styrene. Styrene gas can readily be absorbed through the skin and lungs. At high levels styrene vapor can damage the eyes and mucous membranes. Long term exposure to styrene can affect the central nervous system, causing headaches, fatigue, weakness, and depression.
Not only these people who are burning the trash are exposed to these pollutants,
but also their neighbours, children and families.

The most dangerous emissions can be caused by burning plastics containing organoch-
lor-based substances like PVC. When such plastics are burned, harmful quantities of
Dioxins, a group of highly toxic chemicals are emitted. Dioxins are the most toxic to the
Human organisms. They are carcinogenic and a hormone disruptor and persistent,
and they accumulate in our body-fat and thus mothers give it directly to their babies
via the placenta. Dioxins also settle on crops and in our waterways where they eventu-
ally wind up in our food, accumulate in our bodies and are passed on to our children.

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