- Chennai enjoys a coastal weather which helps dispose pollutants in air
- Regulation on heavy vehicles, green tax are some measures taken in Chennai
- Occasional slips, like the high AQI levels post Diwali, are still a problem
Delhi’s current breathlessness is mirrored in other cities of North India as well, be it Agra, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Lucknow. The helplessness of Delhi in the wake of the air pollution crisis was once again brought to the fore on November 7, when the national capital woke up to a thick smog cover. As the Air Quality Index (AQI) levels of North India touched severe and hazardous levels of above 450, the city of Chennai quietly enjoyed a satisfactory AQI of 68, indicating safe air levels in the city.
The situation was not very different for Chennai a few days back, when the AQI levels shot up to a severe 313 on October 20, the day after Diwali. How did Chennai made a miraculous turnaround to reduce AQI levels to safe limits, within less than three weeks?
The reasons, experts suggest are both natural and manmade. As the authorities in Chennai used their geographical advantage along with certain well implemented initiatives to ensure that air pollution remains under control for most of the year.
While no urban metro today can claim to be hundred per cent in control of managing air pollution, we have done a commendable job. We have certain natural advantages and some of our implemented directives ensure that apart from a few occasions, air pollution in Chennai is mostly under control, said Mohammad Nasimuddin, Chairman, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
The natural advantage is of course the ongoing retreating monsoon which is bringing in moderate to heavy rainfall in Chennai and helping the air to get rid of any pollutants settling in. Retreating monsoon began its onset in Chennai on October 27 and continued heavily for a week, washing the city’s air of pollutants. The sea breeze also helps and is a major factor in cleaning up the pollutants floating in the city’s air.
Apart from natural advantages, Chennai took some important steps.
- In 2002, bus depots in Chennai were shifted out of city limits. This was done to ensure that bus depots, which take up significant space and can cause congestion and more than necessary emission, were shifted out of city limits.
- Heavy duty vehicles are also not allowed to enter Chennai during peak hours, thus ensuring that there is no diesel emission along with regular traffic.
- The Tamil Nadu government also imposed a green tax on vehicles older than 15 years, thus ensuring that owners of such ft switch to environmentally friendly ones.
- Of the 40,000 industries operating in and around Chennai, only Chennai Power Corporation and Chennai Port Trust emit considerably, and the rest are under permissible limits.
Vehicles and industries can easily become sources of pollution if their operations remain unchecked for long. We ensure that they are monitored on a regular level, especially the emission standards. We have also ensured that incinerators of any kind are set up outside city limits, so that there is no emission due to burning of waste, said Mr Nasimuddin.
It would be unfair to say that air pollution is not a matter of concern in Chennai. The recent spike in particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and 10 levels after Diwali was an example of how a city, despite a favourable coastal weather and stringent measures can fall prey to the air pollution problem. But what Delhi and other cities can learn from Chennai is can learn is that despite being a metro city with population of nearly 70 lakhs, Chennai has managed to put into effect certain measures which keep the city’s air breathable, despite certain slips from time to time.