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Forced to bite the dust

  • Forced to bite the dust
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Past couple of days while driving around Delhi NCR, We witness an additional pain by fellow Truck drivers. Long trail of Trucks occupy the sides of the precious road space making walking also hell difficult. 

We learned that recently imposed Green toll on trucks entering Delhi has caused a massive disruption among truck drivers. As it is, their plight was no less, having been asked to show papers at every junction – as a moving relic of License Raj.

(Hope technology come to their rescue soon and facilitate a respectable ride for the truck drivers)

This move by NGT is debatable. Particularly when we don’t have a strong peripheral by-pass network. Air pollution is issue of the state. Each one of us is responsible for it in some way or the other. However prolonged negligence in building up a sound mass transit system with a low carbon footprint, has also been hugely responsible for it. About 78% of Air pollution in Delhi is caused by vehicles. India is aiming at building 30 Km of roads every day. Somewhere the increasing level of air pollution in the cities and the ambitious plans for road construction are not coherent, unearthing a huge dichotomy in the Government’s narrative towards sustainability.

Anatomy of the sources of polluted air in Delhi-

Dust on the Indian roads and streets are a potent threat to human health. It was highlighted by the Delhi Government that dust is responsible for 38% of air pollution. Vehicles on the road don’t allow the dust to settle, thus giving rise to hazardous suspended particulate matter (SPM). 

Particulate matter can be divided into two types—coarse particles and fine particles. Coarse particles are formed from sources like road dust, sea spray, and construction. Fine particles are formed when fuel is burned in automobiles and power plants.

Mixed with polluting gases like NOx, SOx and COx, dust forms a lethal pollutant into carcinogenic in nature. Citizens on a walk or living by the side of these roads or streets are  increasingly exposed to the rising level of dust, amounting to a massive health hazard. These conditions are similar to the situations in locations around coal mines and quarry sites. When inhaled small dust particles get coagulated in the respiratory tracts and makes it difficult to exhale it out. Cough is the natural response of our body to dispel foreign elements like dust. Prolonged exposure to dusty atmosphere gives rise to respiratory illness and may cause cancer.

Sources of Dust

While law enforcing agencies seem to be very keen in attributing the private activities like building construction as major source of dust, they just turn blind eyes to its real biggest source- unpaved road/street surfaces. The Green tribunal has taken very strict measures to curb the dust menace generated by private players while they are yet to act on the vast unpaved surfaces in and around the cities. Dust carried by wind also factors in the loss of top soil which has its own set of implications. While dust picked by wind from open sources contribute to coarse particulate matter, fine particles are generated by burning fossil fuels.


There can a number of dust control measures applicable to one set of conditions. It requires careful planning and selection of appropriate methodology. 

The Environment Protection Agency, USA talks a great length about dust control measures, and suggests the following-

·         Sprinkling/Irrigation. Sprinkling the ground surface with water until it is moist is an effective dust control method for haul roads and other traffic routes. This practice can be applied to almost any site.

·         Vegetative Cover. In areas not expected to handle vehicle traffic, vegetative stabilization of disturbed soil is often desirable. Vegetative cover provides coverage to surface soils and slows wind velocity at the ground surface, thus reducing the potential for dust to become airborne. This can be quite suitable for Indian conditions.

·         Mulch. Mulching can be a quick and effective means of dust control for a recently disturbed area. Mulching is basically providing a layer over the top soil. Organic layers like leaves, tree bark, wood chips etc provide a good protective cover for the top soil. Mulch also helps in-moisture conservation, improved fertility and reducing weed growth.

 ·         Wind Breaks. Wind breaks are barriers (either natural or constructed) that reduce wind velocity through a site and, therefore, reduce the possibility of suspended particles. Wind breaks can be trees or shrubs left in place during site clearing or constructed barriers such as a wind fence, snow fence, tarp curtain, hay bale, crate wall, or sediment wall (USEPA, 1992).

·         Tillage. Deep tillage in large open areas brings soil clods to the surface where they rest on top of dust, preventing it from becoming airborne.

·         Stone. Stone can be an effective dust deterrent for construction roads and entrances or as a mulch in areas where vegetation cannot be established.

·         Spray-on Chemical Soil Treatments (palliatives). Examples of chemical adhesives include anionic asphalt emulsion, latex emulsion, resin-water emulsions, and calcium chloride. Chemical palliatives should be used only on mineral soils. When considering chemical application to suppress dust, determine whether the chemical is biodegradable or water-soluble and what effect its application could have on the surrounding environment, including water bodies and wildlife.

Taking a walk down in a community garden, instead of breeze, we would seldom encounter dust, noise and pollution. 

This clearly emphasizes the need for expanding the vegetative cover over urban open spaces as the means to recover up the top part of soil and to avoid dust and sand being carried away by wind. The Government agencies need to put their acts together in making this take shape of a movement. 



Title Image Courtesy - jepoirrier

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