Hyderabad: It is not just nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that causes pollution in the city. A new study claims to have found high levels of toxic benzene in Hyderabad’s air. It says that the
Hyderabad: It is not just nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that causes pollution in the city. A new study claims to have found high levels of toxic benzene in Hyderabad’s air. It says that the city now faces the challenge of a multi-pollutant crisis. And not just Hyderabad, but tier-II cities in the state such as Guntur and Vijayawada too are experiencing high levels of pollution. The study was commissioned by the Centre for Science and Environment and studied pollution levels in major cities across the country. Although it didn’t rank cities on the basis of pollution, it said Hyderabad is facing an unprecedented multi-pollutant crisis. Levels of particulate matter in areas like Uppal, Balanagar, Charminar and its surrounding areas, and Paradise junction have been officially classified as ‘critical,’ while it remains ‘extremely high’ in other areas like Tarnaka. Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, CSE, who headed the study, said, “In several areas of Hyderabad, we found that levels of particulate matter exceeded the set standards. Levels of PM 2.5 are very high in many areas in the city.” PM 2.5 is particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micro-metres which can penetrate the exchange areas of the lungs. Levels of toxic air pollutants like benzene are also high in the city. “We have noticed high levels of toxic gases like benzene in some parts of the city. It is multi-pollutant crisis for Hyderabad,” Roy Chowdhury said. According to the study, about 47 per cent of the air pollution in the city is caused by vehicles, while the remaining can be attributed to other sources like industrial pollution. The report said that Hyderabad would need the area of about 100 football fields every year to create parking space for the inflating amount of vehicles. Bad roads have also contributed to air pollution. The AP Pollution Control Board has recorded dust pollution levels to be 87 micrograms per cubic metre, exceeding the permissible level of 60 micrograms per cubic metre. The study also said that smaller cities are now becoming more polluted. “We surveyed several smaller cities in South India and it is alarming to note that even these cities are now facing a crisis. Smaller cities like Guntur, Vijayawada, Salem, Dharwad and so forth are at the crossroads now,” Roy Chowdhury said. Heavy metal contamination in Hyderabad river It is not just air pollution that is threatening the city, even water and ground pollution are posing serious risks. Recent studies have shown high levels of heavy metal contamination in river basins around Hyderabad. These contaminants can potentially get into the food chain. A recent study published by geologists found nitrate to be a common pollutant in surface water and groundwater in the agricultural areas in neighbouring Nalgonda. Studies have also shown heavy metal contamination in the Musi river basin. The study by Dr K. Brindha and Dr L. Elango of the department of geology, Anna University, found nitrate contamination to be above the permissible limit of 45 mg/l in about 242 square kilometres out of the total surveyed area of 724 square kilometres. The study attributed this high concentration to dumping of animal waste and sewage leakage. Researchers also note that contaminants in soil can easily enter the food chain. The study said that nitrate was one of the major pollutants of groundwater. Studies by researchers from the Mahatma Gandhi University in Nalgonda had found high levels of contaminations due to heavy metals like arsenic, cobalt, chromium and so forth in the Chinnaeru river basin of Musi. Inside the city as well, water samples tested by the Institute of Preventive Medicine have shown traces of bacteria and E-Coli time and again. According to the last sample survey conducted by the IPM, about 17 drinking water samples collected in the city were found to be unsatisfactory out of a total of 188.