Kanpur's residents breathe polluted air and drink water of dismal quality, but do nothing
A miserable place to live
Once known for its vibrant economy, Kanpur today has the ignominy of being ranked among the five most polluted cities in the country. Garbage festers all over the city; Kanpur's residents breathe a noxious mix of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, lead and ammonia gas, and they make do with drinking water of abysmal quality.
A recent study has noted that the suspended particulate matter (spm) and respirable spm levels in the city were 674 milligramme per cubic metre (mg/cum) and 302 mg/cum -- way above the permissible levels: 140 mg/cum for spm and 60 mg/cum for rspm. Vehicular emissions are among the main causes for such pollution. Kanpur has nearly five lakh vehicles, and almost 50,000 new ones are added every year.
Moreover, tempos rattle through the city without scrubbers that check noxious gas emissions. The near total absence of greenery in the city enables dust to mix with vehicular emission. The situation is getting worse by the day and experts claim that cases of tuberculosis and related chest diseases have increased in Kanpur.
Of course, the Ganga waters are decontaminated at treatment plants. But they are polluted again during supply to the households. Engineers associated with the Kanpur Municipal Corporation say that pipe leakage is a common problem; so is the inflow of sewage and other affluents into the water distribution network that dates back to 1892.
Rapid depletion of underground water coupled with groundwater pollution has compounded the city's water woes. Chemicals such as manganese, chromium, nitrate and fluoride have been detected in the groundwater on the banks of the Ganga. Recently, a team from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, has found that wastes from bleaching and electroplating units contaminate groundwater sources, rendering them unfit for domestic consumption. Kanpur's groundwater has also been sullied by sewage inflow.
Lots of funds -- from both domestic and international sources -- have been earmarked for reducing Kanpur's pollution. A lot of money has been spent on cleaning the Ganga, but to little avail. Kanpur is slowly going to seed. While indifferent authorities are responsible for many of its problems, Kanpur's residents are no less culpable. There is a woeful dearth of voluntary activity to check the scourge. It seems Kanpur's residents have given up on the city.
Suresh Kr Pramar is a freelance journalist
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