Times of India features HHH MSTEP Team Ramaswami & Nagpure research

Congratulations to Prof. Ramaswami and Postdoc Dr. Nagpure and their team: This project, published in Environmental Science and Technology, picked up by a newspaper with one of the largest readerships in the world--Nagpure, Ajay S., Anu Ramaswami, and Armistead G. Russell. "Characterizing the Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Open Burning of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Indian Cities." Environmental science & technology (2015).

Large-scale open burning of garbage damaging Taj: US study http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Large-scale-open-burning-of-garbage-damaging-Taj-US-study/articleshow/49567408.cms





MSW being burnt near Kamla Nagar at NH-2's service lane.

AGRA: One of the major threats to the Taj Mahal — a high level of particulate matter (PM) responsible for masking the white marble sheen - is being released into air on account of large scale burning of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the city.

A joint study by the University of Minnesota and Georgia Institute of Technology to find a pattern in open burning of garbage within Indian cities has revealed that 2%-3% of garbage is burnt every day in Delhi, while at 24% it is almost 12 times more in Agra.

According to the findings of the present study, the total municipal solid waste being burnt in Delhi on a daily basis is estimated to be about 190-246 tonne per day out of total 8390 tonne generated. In Agra, it is 223 tonne per day out of 923 tonne.

Notably, just December last year a joint study by IIT Kanpur and Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin had revealed that brown and black carbons along with dust are responsible for giving yellow tinge to the white marble monument. Subsequent to the report, the parliamentary standing committee on environment passed several directions to Agra administration in order to curb pollution in the city.

The study was carried out by Ajay Nagpure, post doctorate associate at the Science Technology and Environmental Policy Program from University of Minnesota under the supervision of Prof Anu Ramaswami, chair professor of environmental policy at University of Minnesota. The team collaborated with Prof Armistead G Russell from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Nagpure said the burning of MSW releases a high amount of particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), which are responsible for damaging the aesthetics of culturally important monument like Taj Mahal. Moreover, short- and long-term exposure to these pollutants is associated with a number of health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, adverse birth outcomes, and cancer."




The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified PM2.5, specifically, as a Group 1 human carcinogen. Most recently, estimates from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study indicate that outdoor articulate pollution is the fifth major cause of premature death and disability-adjusted life years lost in India after high blood pressure, indoor air pollution, tobacco smoking, and poor nutrition, with about 6,95,000 premature deaths estimated per year.

For the study, three neighborhoods in Delhi - one with low socioeconomic status (SES) and with very little infrastructure for waste collection (Brijpuri), and two others that had adequate waste collection services and were mid-high (Jangpura) and of high-socioeconomic status (Safdarjung Enclave) were chosen.

The study then focused on the method to try to estimate waste burning across the whole city of Delhi, and also to compare with Agra. The researchers then made the Delhi estimation based on Summer-Winter data from 2014 and 2015. For Agra and Delhi - the comparison is based on summer measurements conducted between May and June in 2015.

The highest rate of 130 incidents of MSw burning per sq Km was in seen in Brijpuri in Delhi that had very poor waste collection services. As expected, with no good options, waste burning incidence was high in Brijpuri in both winter and summer.

The other two areas showed lower waste burning - but it is important to note that it was not zero, even though they did have adequate collection and pick up service. Here it was even more interesting that Jangpura has the lower waste burning compared to Safdarjung Enclave.

For mass burning per sq km per day, the rough estimates show that (not surprisingly) Brijpuri has the largest daily mass of MSW burned (1170 kg per sq Km per day), recorded in winter. This is about 14 times higher than the high and high-medium SES areas (89 kg per sq Km per day) in winter. The summer number are a bit lower in both the low income (Brijpuri) and high SES areas (Safdarjung Enclave and Jangpura) - and still show the same patterns.

The inter-city comparison showed Agra to be very different, with significantly higher municipal solid waste burning frequencies and a higher mass/area compared to Delhi. For Agra the municipal solid waste burned was observed to be much higher in three different areas that were covered - ranging from frequencies of 39 to 202 incidents per sq Km per day in more wealthy areas, to 672 to 3485 kg per sq Km per day in low income areas, as measured in summer 2015, the study reported.

The team is going to repeat the winter study in Agra. In Agra, the team went over 14 neighborhoods over 80 km transect. In Agra sampling were done in Dayalbagh, Belanganj Civil Line, Lohiya Nagar, Balkeshwar Colony, Telipada, Shaheed Nagar, Vijay Nagar Colony, Some Areas from ward no 23& 24, Shaheed Nagar, Chandra Nagar, Shyam Nagar, Dhandhupura and Trans Yamuna Colony Block.

According to Central Pollution Control Board, against the prescribed limit of 60, PM10 level in Agra is 180. Notably, while replying to an RTI query filed by TOI over Taj's Mahal's restoration work recently, ASI has accepted that air pollutants, especially suspended particulate matter (SPM), after reacting with marble is masking the original colour and sheen of the monument.

When contacted, divisional commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar said the city's areas are divided between Agra Nagar Nigam and Cantonment Board. "While municipal corporation sanitary workers are doing their duties properly, Cantonment board's work is not very satisfactory. We have also written to their senior officials. We will once again pursue the matter, he added.
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