Chhattisgarh, a state in central India, is suffering from low air quality and air pollution, which is causing a lot of turbulence in the lives of local people. Korba district being the power capital of Chhattisgarh suffers from a significant dip in the Air Quality index due to a rise in pollutants to almost double the level recently. The state human rights commission has demanded a report from the state pollution control board this year stating that the fundamental right to life stands threatened by such a degraded environment.
Also, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Government of Chhattisgarh to allocate ₹335 crores to construct better roads for transporting coal from mines to thermal power plants before March 2021 to minimise air pollution.
Chhattisgarh, situated in the focal of India, has a heavily forested area and is also known for its temples and waterfalls. This state is home to many coal mines and has a lot of coal-fired power plants. Factors like highly polluted air, soil and water have caused residents to suffer for years. Rapidly increasing toxic industrial waste, domestic waste, gas emission from vehicles, etc. can be considered as the vital reason for air pollution in the state capital city, Raipur.
The report of the Times of India on ELAWs help reveals a severe pollution crisis in this region due to the level of several carcinogenic toxic metals in the water, air and soil not meeting the standards. ELAWs team partner Shweta Narayan with community environmental monitors reached to the villagers to collect the sample of air, soil and water to examine the pollution level from the Raigarh district. And she also stated that villagers were complaining about chronic joint pain, bone deformities, skin allergies, respiratory illness, tuberculosis and many more.
Water and air samples collected from Kosampali, Kodkel, Dongamahua, Kunjemera and Regaon villages were polluted with a high level of Chromium, Cadmium, Manganese and Selenium. The Regaon village even exceeded the Arsenic standards by 1.7 times and Cadmium level by 4.4 times.
Their report found out that 9 out of 12 soil samples from the villages were highly contaminated by fly ash, with Cadmium levels in soil in Regaon village 18 times the safe standard and Chromium levels in Kujemera village more than 3 times the safety standards.
According to research, Cadmium is an insidious toxin that stays in the body for several decades and is the sole and primary cause of kidney diseases. Protecting children against exposure to it should be an urgent priority for everyone. Villagers are demanding the Government to keep a close eye on the emission of poisonous gas’ or particles and the health of the people by cleaning up the contaminated areas.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2015 declared Raipur as the country’s most polluted city. The then union minister of environment and forest, A Raja presented a report in parliament based on a study on the presence of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air in 52 cities and Raipur ranked the highest.
SPM in the air of Raipur is 250 micrograms per cubic meter (g/m3) while the standard was fixed at 200g/m3, and the concentration of dust particles is 350 parts per millions against the fixed limit is 200 ppm. The respirable particles are 230 ppm; much more than the fixed standards of 100 ppm. It is also believed that the presence of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) is 3–4% higher than the previously fixed limits. Levels of Iron, Zinc, Nickel, Lead, and Manganese were way higher in the airs of Raipur, causing the city to suffer from poor quality of air.
Dr Prabir Chatterjee, director of SHRC Chhattisgarh, conducted a study from December 2018 to January 2019 and took the air samples from different areas such as Kalibadi, Urla, Birgaon, Amlidih and Tatibandh. According to his report, emission from iron and steel manufacturing factories in Raipur and Bhilai are the primary cause of the poor quality of air in Raipur. The high level of Manganese in the air poses a serious risk to the neurobehavioral health issues to the residents of both cities and areas.
And a report by Dr Mark shows that the levels of pollutants from Raipur are comparable and equal to that of Wilmington, the largest and most populated city in Delaware, USA. Burning coal in the U.S. and EU may cause more than 10,000 premature deaths each year while in India the number may exceed 1,00,000.
Raipur has achieved a reduction in local particulate matter pollution in the last few years. Continuous stack emission monitoring systems were installed in 145 industries and 118 rolling mills. Also, legal restrictions were imposed on particulate matter emission to less than 50g/m3. Further, in 2017, a closure notice was issued to several different industries and 40 functioning mill units for violating the fixed environmental standards. The Government of the state also disconnected the power of several violators and sent notices to others that were out of compliance with air regulations.
Chhattisgarh has adopted an innovative experiment by setting up Gauthan; in which a dedicated 5-acre plot is held in common by every village where all the unused Parali is collected through Parali Daan. Then it is converted to organic fertiliser for future use by rural youth. It is an innovative step to mitigate the effects of the stubble burning that leads to a huge climate crisis and pollution in the state.
The United Nations has made certain recommendations to manage and control air pollution. No doubt from the last few years Chhattisgarh has achieved great success in curbing air pollution. Still, it is required to follow these rules to get better results:
Due to the insufficient and delayed response from the Government, people are suffering terribly. Here the Government should come forward to take immediate action and measures to control air pollution and to deplete the health of local citizens. No doubt both the Government and citizens of the state are working towards reducing the increasing rate of air pollution; there are still several fields/aspects which they need to give some special attention to get adequate results.