The air quality in Chennai has been ranging from unhealthy to hazardous over the last week. Amongst the capitals of the southern states, Chennai has recorded the most harmful air quality, as per data available on the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) website.
However, after a high-level meeting on Monday, the state government said there is no need to worry.
The Revenue Department has blamed the deteriorating air quality in the city on the low-pressure system caused by Cyclone Bulbul and on possibly faulty meters in the CPCB monitoring stations.
Chennai recorded an average AQI of 247.5 in a residential area such as Velachery and 305.75 in Manali, an industrial area between November 4 and November 8. On November 7, it even surpassed Delhi hands down in air pollution under ‘worrisome’ smoggy conditions.
Chennai Revenue Disaster Management minister RB Ushyankunar Monday spoke to the media and said that the pollution levels are poor in only “one or two places”.
“The reason for this condition is the formation of systems in the Bay of Bengal, including Cyclone Bulbul and Low-Pressure Area, which has restricted the northeasterly wind flow over Chennai, Coastal Tamil Nadu. Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, etc. Thus, the air quality has deteriorated over all the places.” he said.
He added that this is in addition to pollution caused by vehicles, construction sites and burning of garbage.
Faulty meters in the CPCB monitoring stations: J Radhakrishnan
Commissioner of Revenue Administration J Radhakrishnan further added that in monitoring stations controlled by the state pollution control board, the Air Quality Index (AQI) reading was at least 100 points lower.
“We have 28 stations across the state. And the CPCB and mobile units show different figures, so this could be a problem with the Centre’s systems,” he added.
He added, “We have already told the transport department to conduct checks and monitor vehicle emission. In addition to this, no garbage burning will be allowed.”
Shweta Narayan, an Environmental Justice Activist said “I am glad that there is a response from the Government but very disappointed with the stand that they have taken. The government has failed to provide correct information on air quality and health advisories. Moreover, the statement reflects the poor understanding among the government on the health impacts of bad air even for a few hours or a day.
She added that this response is a reflection of the prevalent denial of the issues of air pollution and reluctance to take responsibility to fix the situation.