Levels of air pollution in Hyderabad are shooting up rapidly because of the exponential rise in the number of vehicles. On an average, 600 new vehicles are coming on to the roads every day. This is causing the air pollution to go beyond acceptable levels. The total suspended particulate matter (TSPM) in the air should be 200 milligram per cubic meter but the average value being recorded in the twin cities is 280 milligram per cubic meter.
The traffic-intensive areas like Panjagutta, Charminar, Paradise Circle and Abids have recorded a staggering TSPM rate of 300-400 on any given day.
According to experts, vehicles contribute 50 per cent of the total air pollution in urban areas while the dust on roads is the next major culprit and contributes 25 per cent. Burning of refuse and vegetation is resulting in 15 per cent air pollution while industries are responsible for the remaining 10 per cent.
The number of vehicles in twin cities shot up from 10.91 lakh in 2001 to 18.47 lakh by the end of 2007. Adding another 7.94 lakh vehicles registered in Ranga Reddy district, the total number of vehicles goes up to 26,42,337 in Greater Hyderabad region. If the vehicles registered in other districts and used in the city are also taken into account, the number crosses 27 lakh.
The total number of vehicles in Hyderabad increased by 1,66,129 with cars\jeeps rising by 33,986 and two-wheelers by 1,16,511 during 2006 and 2007. At present, as many as 2,61,850 cars and 13,81,861 two-wheelers operate in the twin cities. The city buses of the APSRTC, the Setwin services, cabs, Aeroexpress buses being run by the Hyderabad International Airport and autorickshaws add further to the air pollution.
A study conducted by the AP Pollution Control Board states that TSPM rates have been steadily rising in all major towns such as Vijayawada, Kurnool, Anantapur, Nalgonda, Guntur, Kadapa, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and Warangal.
The level of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM), is more dangerous than the TSPM and has been steadily increasing.
The government prepared an action plan on the directions of Supreme Court for lowering air pollution in Hyderabad and constituted the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to monitor its implementation.
A high-level co-ordination committee comprising the AP Pollution Control Board member-secretary, additional commissioner of police (traffic), civil supplies commissioner, transport commissioner and coordinator of oil companies has been constituted to monitor the pollution control action plan.
The emphasis is to promote public transport and curtail the number of private vehicles which is not only causing pollution but also chaos on roads.
But, the question is, is it possible? Particularly, when private vehicles have become status symbols and not just means of transportation?