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Interview with Avikal Somvanshi: Rajasthan's cities and towns battle rising air pollution

The state of air pollution in the cities and towns of Rajasthan has become a matter of concern, as highlighted in an exclusive interview with

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Interview with Avikal Somvanshi: Rajasthan's cities and towns battle rising air pollution

The state of air quality in the cities and towns of Rajasthan has become a matter of concern, as highlighted in an exclusive interview with Avikal Somvanshi, Consultant at the Center for Science and Environment's Urban Laboratory.

In an exclusive interview with Ground Report, Avikal Somvanshi, shed light on the worrying state of air quality in Rajasthan's cities and towns. The analysis underscores the urgent need for immediate action and resource allocation to address deteriorating air quality, which poses a serious threat to public health and the environment.

The analysis underscores the urgent need for immediate action and resource allocation to combat worsening air pollution, which poses a significant threat to both public health and the environment. Factors such as rapid and poorly planned urbanization, along with increasing reliance on polluting fossil fuels and inadequate pollution control measures, have been identified as major contributors to deteriorating air quality in Rajasthan.

Somvanshi noted that rapid and poorly planned urbanization, combined with increasing motorization, is one of the main contributors to worsening air quality in Rajasthan. While the state has long grappled with dusty conditions due to its arid climate and topography, rising levels of PM2.5 and NO2 pollutants highlight the growing reliance on polluting fossil fuels, inadequate pollution control measures and flawed urban planning.

Excerpts from the interview

Q: What are the main factors contributing to the deterioration of air quality in the cities and towns of Rajasthan, as highlighted in the analysis?

A: The analysis indicates that rapid and poorly planned urbanization and motorization are the main causes of deteriorating air quality in cities and towns in Rajasthan. Rajasthan, known for its arid climate and topography, has always had a dusty environment with high levels of PM10 particles. However, the increase in PM2.5 and NO2 pollutants, which are most harmful to human health, can be attributed to the increasing reliance on dirty fossil fuels, poor pollution control measures, and inadequate urban planning. These factors have contributed to the worsening of the air quality situation in the region.

Q: Which sectors need immediate attention for time-bound improvement in air quality?

A: In my opinion, there are two sectors that require immediate attention and improvement to achieve an improvement in air quality over time. First, within cities, there is a pressing need to focus on improving public transportation and expanding infrastructure for walking and biking. These services must be universally accessible and affordable to encourage people to switch from private vehicles, which contribute significantly to air pollution. It is crucial to re-evaluate the allocation of resources, since the recent emphasis on the construction of metro systems and flyovers has consumed a large part of the available funds, neglecting the improvement of local transport systems that benefit the majority of the population. .

Second, the industrial sector must prioritize the transition to cleaner fuels such as LPG, CNG and electricity. Providing industries with access to these cleaner alternatives and investing in the infrastructure necessary to supply them will significantly reduce emissions and improve air quality. By promoting the adoption of cleaner fuels, we can mitigate the negative impact of industrial activities on the environment and public health.

Q: How does expanding air quality monitoring improve understanding of pollution caused by weak control infrastructure?

A: In the past, air quality monitoring was limited to big four metro cities and known industrial hubs like Bhiwadi and Pali, leaving out smaller towns and cities. This meant that the growing air quality problems in these overlooked areas were never addressed or even acknowledged. There has been a recent expansion of the monitoring network, which now covers most district offices in the state.

This expansion is crucial because it draws attention to the public health crisis in non-metropolitan and non-industrial cities. By monitoring air quality in these areas, we can allocate resources and focus on implementing pollution control measures effectively. For example, the National Clean Air Program provides significant funding to cities with poor air quality to improve their pollution control infrastructure. Unfortunately, these small towns were unable to qualify for funding earlier because the air quality was never properly documented. With expanded monitoring, these towns now have the opportunity to access the necessary resources to combat contamination.

Furthermore, air quality monitoring plays a crucial role in creating public awareness and gaining support for pollution control measures. People are often unaware of the seriousness of pollution and its impact on health. By providing hard data through monitoring, we can educate the public about the risks and motivate them to take action.

Q: What are the major sources of particulate pollution in Jodhpur, Kota, and Jaipur, and what can be done to reduce the pollution levels?

A: The main sources of particulate pollution in Jodhpur, Kota, and Jaipur are rapid urbanization, increased motorization, traffic congestion, and poor management of construction and municipal waste. To reduce pollution levels, it is essential to prioritize sustainable urban planning, improve public transportation systems, implement effective waste management strategies, promote the use of cleaner fuels, and raise public awareness about the importance of air quality. . These measures can help address the particulate pollution crisis and improve overall air quality in these cities.

Q: Factors and implications of rising NO2 levels in Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur?

A: Rising Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur can be attributed to several factors, with traffic being one of the major contributors. Rapid motorization, inadequate parking management, lack of affordable public transportation, and increasing distances between residential and work areas due to poor urban planning are the main reasons for the increase in NO2 pollution. The implications for air quality in these cities are significant, as NO2 is a highly toxic gas that can cause serious public health crises in both the short and long term. Furthermore, NO2 also plays a crucial role in the formation of tropospheric ozone, which further exacerbates air pollution during the summer months in the cities of Rajasthan. Addressing these factors and implementing measures to reduce traffic congestion, improve public transportation, and promote sustainable urban planning are essential to mitigate the adverse effects of NO2 pollution and improve overall air quality in these cities.

Q: Challenges and solutions for pollution control in smaller cities and towns of Rajasthan?

A: The smaller cities and towns of Rajasthan face specific challenges when it comes to tackling air pollution. Historically, air pollution control has not been a focus in these areas as the magnitude of the problem was not fully recognized. However, with the growing understanding of the scale and nature of air pollution, it has become clear that similar solutions implemented in larger cities can also be extended to smaller towns. The main challenge lies in the lack of financial resources in these cash-strapped areas, making it difficult to implement pollution control measures without external assistance. Additionally, the smaller size of these cities requires redesign and non-standard implementation tactics to make pollution control feasible. Furthermore, many small cities lack a comprehensive master plan to guide their development, further complicating the implementation of pollution control measures. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on building proper management systems for urbanization and urban development in these smaller cities and towns to effectively address their specific air pollution needs.

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