As the people of Tamil Nadu usher in Thai Pongal, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has released the data for the amount of air pollutants in the Chennai skies before and after Bhogi festival. Bhogi festival is celebrated on the day before Pongal and involves burning old and unwanted items.
This year, the TNPCB had created awareness all around Chennai requesting people to avoid burning artificial substances to celebrate Bhogi.
According to a press release given by the TNPCB, the volume of Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide in the air was well within their permissible limits of 80 µ/m3, while the levels of Particulate Matter in the air was found to be slightly higher than the permissible levels. “During the Bhogi day the Particulate Matter (PM2.5) level was in the range of 20-109 µg/m3 as against the prescribed standard of 60 µg/m3 and Particulate Matter (PM10) was in the range of 126- 249 µg/m3 as against the prescribed standard of 100 µg/m3,” read the report.
Similar figures for PM10 for the year 2018 ranged from 135 µg/m3 to 353 µg/m3 as against the prescribed standard of 100 µg/m3.
The TNPCB, this year, also had 36 patrolling teams to monitor the things that were being burnt and to put out hazardous materials using water or sand. This year the teams seized more than 100 waste tyres, which were kept aside for burning and sent them to the Common Hazardous Waste Management facility in Gummidipoondi.
According to legend, farmers in old Tamil Nadu burnt farm wastes like wooden logs and cow dung cakes on the day of Bhogi to usher the start of a new period in the form of Thai Pongal. This was also done to keep themselves warm during the early morning winter. But as years went by, this practice was altered to accommodate the burning of hazardous materials like old tyres and plastic. Burning these caused dangerous particles to mix in the air, causing breathing difficulties.