Post Brahmapuram fire, levels of suspended particulate matter shoot up in Kochi

Levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 have increased more than the permissible limits, thereby posing grave health risks.
Post Brahmapuram fire, levels of suspended particulate matter shoot up in Kochi
Post Brahmapuram fire, levels of suspended particulate matter shoot up in Kochi
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The levels of fine suspended particulate matter, which has severe health impact, have drastically increased in Kochi’s atmosphere over the past four days. Data from air pollution monitoring stations of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) accessed by TNM shows that levels of particulate matter 2.5 and 10 (PM2.5 and PM10) have shot up more than the permissible limits.

Suspended particulate matter are fine inhalable particles which can cause severe respiratory problems.

According to various environmental experts, the reason behind this sudden increase in air pollution is said to be the massive fire at Brahmapuram waste management plant last Friday. Following the fire, a heavy blanket of smoke engulfed the city for two days.

According to the KSPCB data, level of air pollutants increased not only at the place where the fire broke out, but also at various other places in the city. The air pollution monitoring centres at Vytilla Mobility Hub, one of the busiest commercial areas in the city and Brahmapuram, where fire happened, have recorded high levels of air pollutants.

The level of PM 2.5 at Brahmapuram where the waste management plant is located, was recorded to be 92 μg/m3 on the day the fire broke out. According to KSPCB, the permissible level of PM 2.5 should be limited to 60 μg/m3. Meanwhile, with the level reaching 161 μg/m3, the presence of suspended particulate matter became almost three times more than the permissible limit on Saturday.

Though the level of PM 2.5 rise only slightly above the permissible limit, reaching about 62.03 μg/m3 on Friday at Vytilla, it doubled to 130 μg/m3 on Saturday. Experts attribute it to the smoke blanket which engulfed the city on Saturday. “Though the fire occurred on Friday at Brahmapuram, it should be understood that by Saturday, heavy smoke was transferred to parts of the city. This might have increased the level of suspended particulate matter in the city limits,” MA Baiju, chief environmental engineer of KSPCB at Ernakulam, told TNM.

Meanwhile, the level of PM 10 which should have a safe limit of 100 μg/m3, rose to 188 μg/m3 at Brahmapuram on Friday, increasing to 200 on Saturday. The levels recorded in Vytila also showed increase of PM 10.

Though level of suspended particulate matter was seen to be lowering by Monday, it has not gone below the permissible limit yet.

Health Concerns

From health experts to environmental activists, many have expressed concern regarding the impact this could have on residents of Kochi. “PM 2.5 which is more dangerous than PM 10 can cause inflammation in lungs. Exposure to PM 2.5 above permissible limits will have severe impact especially for asthmatic patients and children. Vulnerable people might not experience any sudden problems. The effect of this will be known only after about a week of being exposed to this pollutant. Wheezing and asthma are the common issues one can have,” said Dr Jacob Baby, a pulmonologist. He also added that prolonged exposure might lead to acute cardiovascular issues.

According to experts, rise in level of air pollutants will also have impact on the quality of soil and water. “This issue is not just limited to air pollution and impact on people. These pollutants can react with dew in atmosphere and settle in water bodies and soil. This will have a serious impact in a place like Kochi which is rich in inland water bodies,” said environmental activist CR Neelakandan.

Environmental activists also point fingers at the city corporation for their apathy over the state of affairs at the Brahmapuram waste management plant. “How can one call the garbage dump at Brahmapuram a waste management or treatment plant. Waste is being dumped there without any treatment mechanism. Every political party which has headed the city corporation has cheated people by simply allocating funds for the plant,” added CR Neelakandan.

Despite Kochi being often described as the commercial capital of Kerala, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) does not have a monitoring station for air quality management in Kochi. There is only one such station in Kerala which is located in Thiruvananthapuram.

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