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GIS study reveals new facets of pollution in Pune

As much as 98 per cent of a 2.886 sq.km area in Deccan Gymkhana-Kothrud belt is enveloped in “higher-than-normal” pollution levels during the winter months. The C-DAC study which was published in the August edition the Asian GIS monthly, GIS Development, was undertaken to demonstrate the enormous potential of the satellite and computer-based Geographic Information System to understand and alleviate urban air pollution problems.

* While 56 per cent of this area shows “critical level of pollution” in winter, the critical area reduces to 13.33 per cent during the monsoons and once again rises to 22 per cent during the summer months.

The Maharishi Karve Road and its surrounding 500 metres area “falls in the risk zone in all the seasons because of the heavy traffic,” says an air pollution-related study undertaken by the Geomatics Solutions Development Group at C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing).

While GIS-based planning is extremely common in the developed world, the full potential of this satellite and computer-based system is yet to be realised by planners in India. The Geomatics Solutions Development Group at C-DAC which is using GIS for varied applications across the country has demonstrated the utility of this system to better understand the magnitude of the air pollution problem in Pune and the long-term health hazards for the citizens. C-DAC’s geomatics solutions team led by Ashok Kaushal, Shirish Ravan and their associate Uday Patil applied GIS-based air pollution surface modelling techniques to a 2.886 sq.km area in the Deccan Gymkhana-Kothrud area covering Bhandarkar Road , Prabhat Road , Karve Road , Chiplunkar Road and Fergusson College Road .

Using available pollution and traffic density data at a few locations in the area, the CDAC team simulated the data for vehicular pollutants such as SPM (Suspended particulate matter), NOx (Nitrogen oxides) and SOx ( Sulphur oxides) for 48 points in the city. This data was then used to calcuate the Air Pollution Index (API) and use GIS modelling techniques to understand pollution patterns round the year. The study showed that 98 per cent of the Deccan Gykhana-Kothrud area exceeded permissible pollution levels in the winter months (API over 50). Out of this, 56 per cent of the area (1,619 sq.metres) “shows critical levels of pollution,” the study noted. Pollution levels showed a sharp decline in the rainy season with 54 per cent area (1,566 sq.metres) showing acceptable level of pollution and barely 13.33 per cent area showing critical levels of pollution.

Pollution levels in the summer months were also very high showing 77 per cent of the area exceeding acceptable levels out of which 22 per cent area showed critical levels of pollution. The study observed that the seasonal air pollution data and the identification of the localities that are worst affected by vehicular pollution can be used to study the health-risk assessment of the population under study and also evaluate transport policies.
“GIS data can help citizens and civic planners better understand the impact of pollution in various localities and arrive at a direct co-relation between pollution related health ailments in certain areas. Likewise, it can help civic planners take corrective measures such as changing traffic patterns and creating more parks and vegetation cover in the affected areas,” Shrish Ravan, team co-ordinator geomatics group, said. He said that C-DAC had already proposed to develop a GIS-based asset management system for the Pune Municipal Corporation. “We would be willing to expand that project and undertake pollution related studies,” he said.

The Times of India
28th October 2003