‘Srinagar among 15 worst polluted cities in world’

The summer capital of Srinagar is one of the most polluted cities in the world, according to recently published findings by World Health Organization (WHO).
File Photo
File Photo

The summer capital of Srinagar is one of the most polluted cities in the world, according to recently published findings by World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO findings for 2016 place Srinagar at serial No 10 among 15 worst polluted cities. These findings are based on the quality of air and respirable suspended particulate matter in the air that enter lungs.

In Srinagar, the permissible limit for particulate matter is 60 µg/m³ for 24 hours and 40 µg/m³ for any given year. However, the study found the level going up to staggering 113 µg/m³ in 2016.

The situation has improved slightly since 2016, however, J&K State Pollution Control Board's findings for 2018 still show considerably high levels of pollution at different locations in the city like Boulevard, Dalgate and Jahangir Chowk.

While the data shows air quality being within permissible limits across 24 hours, independent findings at specific points during the day show figures well beyond the permissible limit, due to plying of traffic as well as the ongoing construction works.

While the construction sites are known for polluting atmosphere with particulate matter that comes from dust emissions, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has failed in even taking basic precautionary measures like spraying water at the sites to prevent particulate matter from polluting the air.

Evidence of this can be observed in places like Lal Chowk and Jehangir Chowk, where the government is carrying out multiple large-scale projects.

The rising pollution level has become a cause of worry with tourist as well locals finding it difficult to breathe in free air in various parts of the city.

The regional director pollution control board Kashmir Syed Nadeem Hussain said the major contributor to the "recent rise" in dust pollution was deposition of massive amounts of silt across various parts of the city following 2014 floods.

"The issue is not entirely due to the ill-managed construction sites, however, it is aggravated by them and traffic congestion," he said.

The Board has passed on several recommendations to SMC and road traffic authorities to tackle the issue of air pollution. But there has hardly been any respite from the rising pollution which is now resulting in health-related issues like respiratory problems.

Owing to the pollution, the shopkeepers in commercial hub, Lal Chowk have reported a considerable drop in customers visiting them.

"Tourists avoid coming to our shops and instead stick to the stalls and showrooms away from this area simply to avoid the dust, and this is causing significant business losses for us," says Parvez Wani, a store owner at Residency Road in Lal Chowk. "We have requested the SMC time and again to clean up the area, as is their responsibility, but they do nothing."

On Friday following constant requests from shopkeepers, the SMC sent a cleanup crew to Residency road, equipped with a water tanker and brooms.

The crew proceeded to wet the roads and sweep the dust into drains adjacent. The effort only brought temporary respite.

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