Air pollution has always been a mainstream concern with an underwhelming response towards remediating the situation. More recently, the interest has been re-ignited in India with several Indian cities having the highest levels of air pollution in the world.

In addition, a report estimates over 650,000 deaths in India in 2015 due to outdoor (ambient) air pollution alone, and an even higher number due to indoor air pollution (1.2 million). These are only mortality estimates, and the impact on morbidity is a lot more widespread.

News articles on air pollution and its impacts in Bengaluru are usually based on studies or reports from research institutes on the situation of poor air quality and worsening trend. Some recent papers on this subject have been from Tel Aviv University and TERI. The former demonstrated that Bangalore has one of the fastest rates of growth of air pollution in the world during the previous decade, whereas the latter indicated areas which are more polluted within Bengaluru, among other things.

Bengaluru has a large vehicular population of over 40 lakh. Of these 70% are two-wheelers, cars make up 15%, autos account for 4% and larger vehicles account for 8% (3). The growth rate of vehicle population is approximately 14% (4). Besides vehicles, there are several other contributors towards air pollution, including construction activities, industrial and business activities and road dust.

Air pollution management in Bengaluru

A paper by Puttanna and Ravi is a very useful one giving an overview of the processes and systems in place to manage air pollution in Bangalore. The report highlights various inadequacies in the system to tackle the complex problem of air pollution (4). Two other doctoral studies have also been conducted on the theme of pollution control and environmental health burden of air pollution. One is by Dr Ravi DR (7) and another by Dr Manasi S (8).

While there is no management system in place, there are various components that can come together to form a management system. The system that was proposed in a report has been reproduced in the appendix. The municipal corporation, Bangalore Development Authority, transport corporations, food department, KSPCB, the task forces and vehicle users have important roles to play to address various dimensions of the air pollution problem. In addition, the air quality standards set the benchmark for action. Effectively, KSPCB is the most important agency in the context of a monitoring system. It had already been indicated in a 2004 report that the KSPCB “wrongly” believes that the sole responsibility for transport related pollution is the Transport Department, and similarly for burning of wastes etc – not taking a proactive stance on these matters (4). This stance they continue to maintain based on quotes in recent news articles.

The Bangalore Traffic Police were also found to not have adequate power to charge polluters on the spot. This is also an additional responsibility on them to check pollution, making the implementation inefficient (4). While a Vehicular Air Pollution Management initiative was started by the Transport Secretariat, it has not taken into account the need for reducing the number of vehicles. The Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs also looks into the issue of fuel adulteration which leads to increased pollution.  

Several issues and gaps were identified in the current capacity and activities of the responsible departments. For instance, poor leadership, inadequate personnel capacity, inappropriate work culture, gaps in monitoring, and not conducting research/models, among other things (4).

Summary of documented efforts

Efforts have been made in the past understand, raise awareness and act on air pollution. As early as 2001, the Karnataka State High Court sought for opinion of the people of Bangalore on the issue of air pollution. It has already been established that air pollution and traffic congestion, which are interrelated problems, are two key concerns for Bangalore’s population (4). The Ecology and Environment Secretariat was also given the coordination responsibility on environmental matters, but proved unsuccessful (4).

There was a Bengaluru Task Force on Air Pollution Mitigation, but it is unclear what the status of this initiative is. One report discussed the need for Karnataka State Pollution Control Board to actively engage with this issue to put into place systems of air quality management. It also highlighted the fact that KSPCB has monitored without adequate quality assurance, and also the data has not been catalogued in an easily retrievable way. The shift to use of LPG among autorickshaws from the late 1990s was also discussed as a good step towards reduction in air pollution. Though a suggestion for banning the registration of two-stroke two wheelers was made by the KSPCB, it was not accepted by the Transport Department (4).

Some earlier efforts by KSPCB such as awareness raising among student populations were reported as tokenistic, without discussing the crux of the issues (4). There has been inadequate focus on an automobile policy to regulate the increase in the number of vehicles. The improvement of the local bus fleet has taken place periodically, but inadequately (4). The metro rail project, which is supposed to reduce congestion and air pollution has developed much slower than expected. But this may provide one avenue for relatively less polluting mass transit to a section of the population. The need for a bus rapid transport system is also being discussed (5).

A city level multi-stakeholder workshop was also held in 2008. It was co-organised by the KSPCB and Cerana Foundation (an NGO  from Hyderabad), and they were successful in bringing together many relevant stakeholders to this meeting including health institutions such as the Public Health Foundation of India, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, St John’s Medical College, Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action, Voluntary Health Association of India, Indian Association of Pediatrics, and Indian Association of Occupational Health (6). The objective of the workshop was: What more needs to be done to win the war against air pollution related health risks in Bangalore?

Knowledge was shared on air pollution in Bangalore, health impacts of air pollution, and potential approaches to address it.  Participating individuals and institutions were then expected to create an action plan together, each taking responsibility of some aspects. An ad-hoc citizens committee was set up to decide on action plan to take outcomes of workshop forward. It is unclear whether this initiative progressed in any way.

Delegates from the KSPCB informed that they plan to install new monitoring stations and dedicated stations for PM 2.5. Various causes of air pollution, and the role of doctors and public health professionals in creating awareness and in advocating for better systems (especially in the school health context) were discussed.

Some steps that had been taken included imposition of PUC certification, promoting LPG fuelled vehicles, easing congestion, constitution of a task force, and conducting public awareness campaign. But the report suggested inadequate consideration for the scale and urgency of the problem, lack of capacity and resources, and also a sense of resignation.

Action plans were prepared on four themes

  • Management of health effects

    • Setting up public monitoring groups through official channels

    • Training doctors by professional associations on the issue

    • Formation of NGO collective on air pollution

    • Awareness work through radios and CMEs

    • Conservation of green cover and water bodies

    • Advocacy for participation of people in policies and for equity

    • Research and studies: research institutions and medical colleges

  • Ambient air quality management

    • Awareness:

      • Billboards at important intersections and malls

      • Media campaign

      • Source identification exercise

    • Increased tree cover, public transport, cleaner fuels, maintenance of vehicles, etc

  • Air quality management for work and indoor spaces

    • Registration of all industries irrespective of size

    • Factsheets, industry specific workshops

    • Estimation of diseases in various workplaces

  • Community intervention program

    • Awareness raising and materials were to be prepared by faculty of medical college departments of community health

Some other suggestions given included: removal of older vehicles, emission testing for all vehicles, promotion of CNG, further support to public transport, developing comprehensive inventories for transport related air pollution sources, asphalting of roads and removal of construction debris, encouraging carpooling, and reducing idling time. More importantly, it was suggested that a core group on air pollution is formed with adequate resources and power to achieve related objectives.

Based on conversations with some of the participants, these group activities were not taken up, at least not in a systematic and coordinated way. The interviewed participants reported no follow up.

TERI did release a report in 2010 titled “Air quality assessment, emission inventory and source apportionment study for Bangalore city”. This study was funded by petroleum industries and the CPCB (2). The objective was to identify key sources of pollution so that targeted interventions can then be possible. Monitoring data from roads, industrial locations and residential areas was used. The conclusion was that the city centre had high levels of all types of air pollutants, and this situation was precarious as large hospitals were also located in these areas besides large resident and working populations. In several locations, ground level ozone and carbon monoxide was also recorded. The study sites included should be considered as representative of the situation in all areas in Bangalore – and therefore the at-risk population is very large.

Table 1: Levels of air pollutants in Bangalore

 

PM10

PM2.5

SO2

NO2

O3

CO

Traffic (CSB, Victoria Road)

Violation

Violation

Below standard

Violation in some seasons

 

Violation

Industrial (Peenya)

Violation

Par

Below standard

   

Violation

Residential (Kammanahalli, Domlur)

Violation in one location

Par to below par

Below standard

 

Violation in one location

Violation in one location

IGICH (Hospital)

Below par

Below par

Below standard

 

Violation

Violation

Background (?)

NA

NA

NA

NA

Violation

Below standard

Red indicates violation

Characterisation of particulate matter shows the presence of carbon, calcium, sodium and potassium. Many other markers of air pollution have been listed [such as coronene, and hopane], but it is not clear what they are markers of.

Table 2: Emission inventory for Bangalore

Type

Amount

Transport

Road dust

Domestic

DG set

Industry

Hotel

Construction

PM10

54.5T/d

22.4

10.9

1.8

3.6

7.8

0.1

7.7

NOx

217.4T/d

146.36

0

2.73

50.96

17.19

0.2

0

SO2

14.6T/d

2.31

0

0.68

3.35

8.21

0.02

0

Receptor modelling and source apportionment: The most important contributing factors include motor vehicle exhaust, secondary particulate matter, construction activities, soil, road dust, biomass burning, industrial sources, storm water drains, coal combustion, and incinerator combustion. Vehicles are more important in pm2.5 levels, and road dust more important in pm10.

Table 3: Emission inventory for particulate matter

 

Paved road and soil dust

Transport

DG sets

Industries

Domestic

PM 10

50.6

19

13

4.5

4.2

PM2.5

3.5

49.9

24.7

3.5

5.8

The maximum pollution levels based on the modelling exercises were in Central hub, and Peenya industrial area. Fuel substitutions – cleaner fuels, ethanol, electric vehicles, and CNG etc will not significantly reduce pollution. However, impacts vary a bit for NOx and PM as per the fuel substitution. Not allowing new industries to open inside city, and shift of fuels within industries leads to siginificant reduction in both PM and NOx. Large reductions in PM are expected if construction practices are improved – loading/unloading, water spraying etc.

Based on all future scenarios tested, one only which showed overall reduction in air pollution has been quoted here. Reforms are needed for various sectors, which are listed here:  

Transport reforms

  • Introduction of BS-V in 2015

  • Ban on 10 yr old commercial vehicles in 2012 and 2017

  • Introduction of Metro in 2011

  • Enhancement of public transport system based on CNG (shift of PKT from private vehicles to public transport i.e. 10 % in 2012 and 20% in 2017)

  • Introduction of electric vehicles (1 – 2% 2w, 5 - 10% 3w and taxis, 5 – 10% buses in 2012 and 2017, respectively)

  • Improvement in inspection and maintenance

  • Conversion of public transport (commercial 3 & 4 w) to CNG (25% in 2012 and 100 % in 2017)

  • By-passing of trucks on the proposed peripheral ring road around Bangalore (which is broadly outside the study domain- assumed only 10% truck traffic within the city)

Industries reforms:

  • Ban on any new air polluting industries in city limits

  • Shift from solid fuel to liquid fuel (LSHS) in 2012 and to NG in 2017 in existing industries

DG Sets:

  • No power cuts i.e. no usage of DG sets in the city

Road dust resuspension:

  • Wall to wall paving

  • Reduction of road dust re-suspension due to by-passing of trucks

Construction reforms:

  • Better construction practices

The top 5 approaches to reducing PM10 are:

  • By-passing of trucks through the proposed peripheral ring road around Bangalore 13.8%

  • Installation of DOC and DPF devices in all pre-2010 diesel vehicles 13.0%

  • No power cuts leading to zero usage of DG sets 12.8%

  • Ban on 10 year old commercial vehicles in 2012 and 2017 12.5%

  • Ban on any new industries in city limits(6.2%) and fuel shift towards cleaner fuel NG (5.3%) in existing industries 11.5 %

A detailed action plan with more options is also given for each sector. Beyond the 5 sectors mentioned above, these points were also included:

  • Integrated land-use development of Bangalore taking environmental factors into consideration

  • Open burning/ Waste burning to be discouraged

  • Domestic sector – biomass burning to be reduced

  • Low Food and civil supplies department, Oil companies

  • Virtual mobility- using ICT information and communication technology

  • Strengthening of air quality monitoring mechanism in terms of number of stations as well as pollutants monitored.

  • Environmental education and awareness activities

Tracking of air pollution related information, concerns and interventions in the local media

News items reporting and discussing various dimensions of the air pollution problem were identified through the search exercise. Many of these articles were based on findings of research studies, and have been published from 2010 onwards. They raise questions of whether should continue to be called “Garden City” or “Air-conditioned City”. Some of the key issues highlighted were as follows:

  1. One report discussed about Indians having been found to have relatively lower lung capacities on average. While this may be an issue of constituency, it may also be reflective of air quality and other issues such as smoking. In addition, based on a National Cancer Registry report, Bangalore has the highest number of lung cancer cases in India. Concerns were also raised by pollution control board officials. Disorders such as asthma and tuberculosis were perceived to be worse in highly polluted cities by some doctors (9). Another report discussed indirect health impacts of traffic, including mental health impacts of spending long hours in traffic (10). Air pollution has been blamed as the fifth largest killer in India (11). Another report blamed air pollution for the loss of 12 disability adjusted life years (DALYs) per 1000 residents in Bangalore, and more so for costing 9% of GDP in terms of negative impacts (12).

  2. Another discussed about the reducing number and density of trees in Bangalore, stating that 10 municipal wards has less than 200 trees including Chikpet and Shivajinagar. This article was based on a report by the IISc, which also stated the necessity of having 32-55 trees for each person to mitigate respiratory carbon dioxide. Bangalore has under 15 lakh trees with over 1 crore population. Newer BBMP areas (such as Varthur) had relatively higher number of trees. One reason for rampant tree felling was reportedly the small human resource of only 19 persons to look after trees and saplings for the whole of Bangalore. Another reason is the “commercial purposes” such as parking spaces and improving visibility of hoardings. An important reason, not often discussed is the grabbing of common lands for illegal constructions, which even involves politicians, according to one of the quoted senior respondents. In addition, though over 5 lakh saplings have been planted in Bangalore since 2010, a small percentage survive as planting is done during inappropriate seasons (the stated reason being bureaucratic hold ups). During some years, there is no planting done as well. It was added that the Forest Department is not a priority for the BBMP, and that the amount of funds released was much smaller than was allocated. Reportedly, when the mayor wrote to councillors for requirement of seeds and saplings, on 16 of the 198 councillors replied (13). The number of trees fell from 72% to 21% over past decade. Removal from private properties, and also for infrastructural projects also contribute to loss (14).

  3. A third report discussed situation of air quality in Bangalore based on monitoring data. Respirable particulate matter, which is the most dangerous of the air pollutants, was found to be very high even in sensitive areas such as around Victoria Hospital (15) and in residential areas (10). The most polluted was found to be the Central Silk Board area. It was also reported that the Central Pollution Control Board monitors air pollution in 15 locations in Bangalore. Due to unabated levels of pollution, reportedly the Karnataka High Court too brought this to the notice of KCPCB officials, as it was reportedly leading to large number of health problems. The highest contributor to air pollution is road transport (44%), but 9 of the 12 emission testing centres owned by the local bus corporation were found to be “defective”, and therefore the department has instructed transport offices to look into the matter. At that stage, the other air pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxide/s were found to be within national standards (15). RSPM levels seem to have worsened in most areas over the past few years (16). In another news report, a senior KSPCB official stated that vehicles contribute 86% of the pollution (16). Areas of intervention highlighted were bringing down number of vehicles (to the extent of putting on hold registration of new vehicles, and banning two stroke rickshaws – which are reportedly not feasible options), reducing potholes and bad roads, planting additional 85 lakh trees, and increased fine for violations. Another option, if adequate support is provided, is the substitution with four-stroke rickshaws (which costed Rs. 1.5 Lakh in 2014). Trees have an ability to adsorb respirable particles, and hence important in controlling air pollution (16). Another solution is ensuring that residential areas remain residential (14). Car-free days are also being proposed.

  4. Another focus has been on the shift to CNG fuelled buses. One report discussed that these buses were to be procured, and that infrastructure has been prepared, but buses have not yet been procured (17).

  5. The issue of fines for air and noise pollution by vehicles has been another approach. One report discussed the state’s move to increase fines for air and noise pollution (10). The Central Motor Vehicles rules 115, 119 and 120 were amended accordingly. Updated emission certificates (which are to be renewed every six months) will be the indicator for air pollution. It was felt that fines were low, and now with increased fines, motorists will follow rules.

  6. The next section of reports looks at prime causes. One report blamed two wheelers for “41% of particulate matter and 67% of nitrogen oxide levels” (11). Over 1200 new vehicles are registered in Bangalore each day, of which 250 are cars and 900 are two wheelers (11). Of the total emissions, 42% are caused by vehicular emissions, 34% by road dust and 14% by industries (12).

  7. Finally, there are some reports looking into implementing departments, and this shows Regional Transport Offices, Motor Vehicles Department and the Pollution Control Boards (among others) as chief actors, which have failed in maintaining air quality in Bangalore. BESCOM has also been held partially responsible (12). A task force was set up in 2001 on air pollution, but it is unclear what impact it had. The Bangalore Traffic Police have made some tokenistic gestures (18).

Do attend the workshop if you want to know more about air pollution.

References

1.     Alpert P, Shvainshtein O, Kishcha P. AOD Trends over Megacities Based on Space Monitoring Using MODIS and MISR. Am J Clim Change. 2012;01(03):117–31.

2.     TERI. Air quality assessment, emission inventory and source apportionment study for Bangalore city [Internet]. New Delhi: The Energy and Resources Institute; 2010 [cited 2015 Mar 24]. Available from: www.cpcb.nic.in/Bangalore.pdf

3.     Kashyap M. Air pollution from transport sources in Bangalore – Call to action. Bangalore: IISc; 2011.

4.     Honaganahalli P, Raju KV. Air quality management in Bangalore: A preliminary assessment [Internet]. Bangalore: Institute of Social and Economic Change; 2004 [cited 2016 Apr 6]. Report No.: 154. Available from: http://www.isec.ac.in/WP%20-%20154.pdf

5.     Prashanth GN. BRTS lane may soon become reality. Deccan Herald [Internet]. Bangalore; 2015 Dec 13 [cited 2016 Apr 7]; Available from: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/517307/brts-lane-may-soon-become.html

6.     Cerana Foundation. Workshop on environmental health –Interventions to reduce air pollution related health risks: Proceedings. Hyderabad: Cerana; 2008 Jan.

7.     Ravi DR. Environmental Burden of Disease due to urban air pollution with special reference to Bangalore City [Doctoral]. [Bangalore]: Institute of Social and Economic Change; 2014.

8.     Manasi S. Economic Dimensions of Urban Pollution Control and Its Treatment – A study of Bangalore city [Doctoral]. [Bangalore]: Institute of Social and Economic Change; 2003.

9.     Bhattacharya P. “Pollution weakening lung functions” [Internet]. The New Indian Express. 2013 [cited 2013 Sep 13]. Available from: http://newindianexpress.com/cities/bangalore/Pollution-weakening-lung-functions/2013/09/08/article1773857.ece

10.     Prakruti P. State declares war on honking, air pollution - Bangalore Mirror [Internet]. Bangaloremirror. 2014 [cited 2014 Oct 14]. Available from: http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/cover-story/cars-and-motorcycles-honking-polluting-vehicle-Central-Motor-Vehicles-Rules-Motor-Vehicles-Act-Karnataka-State-Pollution-Control-Board-Transport-commissioner-Rame-Gowda-Pollution-Under-Control/articleshow/44778346.cms

11.     Mukherjee S. Two-wheelers are biggest pollutants in Bangalore [Internet]. The Times of India. 2013 [cited 2015 Apr 23]. Available from: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/Two-wheelers-are-biggest-pollutants-in-Bangalore/articleshow/19535578.cms

12.     Honaganahalli P. Bangalore’s ambient air quality is under threat [Internet]. Deccan Herald. 2010 [cited 2015 Apr 23]. Available from: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/56221/bangalores-ambient-air-quality-threat.html

13.     Sripad AM. Study Exposes Tall Tree Cover Claims [Internet]. The New Indian Express. 2014 [cited 2014 Jun 30]. Available from: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bangalore/Study-Exposes-Tall-Tree-Cover-Claims/2014/06/27/article2302890.ece

14.     Bora S. Bengalureans gasp as city turns into gas chamber [Internet]. Deccan Chronicle. 2014 [cited 2014 Sep 20]. Available from: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/140918/nation-current-affairs/article/bengalureans-gasp-city-turns-gas-chamber

15.     Jagadeesh V. City’s air dangerously polluted [Internet]. The Hindu. 2014 [cited 2014 Aug 25]. Available from: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/1/article6347493.ece

16.     Francis M, Prasad A. City Gasps for Breath as Air Quality Worsens [Internet]. The New Indian Express. 2014 [cited 2014 Sep 12]. Available from: http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/City-Gasps-for-Breath-as-Air-Quality-Worsens/2014/09/11/article2425463.ece

17.     Bhat A, Rao MM. CNG stations ready, where are the buses? The Hindu [Internet]. Bengaluru; 2016 Feb 4 [cited 2016 Apr 5]; Available from: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/cng-stations-ready-where-are-the-buses/article8189669.ece

18.     Bengaluru City Traffic Police. Joint Drive to reduce Air-Pollution in Bangalore City [Internet]. Bengaluru City Traffic Police. 2012 [cited 2016 Apr 5]. Available from: http://www.bangaloretrafficpolice.gov.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=183&btp=183

Appendix

National Ambient Air Quality Standards