Clean air is in short supply owing to pollution. However, there is no dearth of pure air to breathe across the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. This distinction is another feather in the district’s cap as the region had earlier showed the way for the nation in polio and poverty eradication as well as literacy and population control. The place can only be a paradise on earth for people of Delhi who are huffing and puffing due to toxic air.
Why the district is so clean?
Pathanamthitta is still a typical village with abundant green cover and trees. The place is surrounded by hills. Intermittent rains and the cool sea breeze give a touch of serenity to the place. It is noteworthy to add that private vehicles are less in number, and there is no heavy industry in the region. But one concern is the mushrooming of quarries in recent times.
20 Pathanamthitta = One Delhi
As many as 1.56 crore vehicles, including 31.7 lakh cars, 66 lakh two-wheelers and 2.25 lakh trucks, are plying in India’s capital city, Delhi. Interestingly, there are only 35,332 public buses on Delhi roads. The burning of stubble after harvest in the neighbouring states contributes largely to the poor air quality in Delhi.
The total area of National Capital Region, which includes Delhi and parts of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, is 54,984 sq km. It has 19 districts with a population of 4.61 crore. The rate of urbanization is 62 percent. As many as 82 Boeing aircraft take off and land in an hour in Delhi.
How Pathanamthitta district stands out? The total area of the district is only 2,642 sq km, meaning 20 Pathanamthitta districts are equivalent to one Delhi. Kerala's
largest forest range – Ranni -- is in this district. Close to 50 percent of the district (1,385 sq km) is covered by forest.
The district has a current population of 11.97 lakh. The figure was 12.36 lakh in 2001. Pathanamthitta is the only district in the country which registered a dip in population. Every 10 years, the region has logged a decline of -2.97 percent in the population rate. Urbanisation rate is 10.03 percent, and the poverty rate is just 1.17 percent in the district. Close to 89 percent people are staying in villages and the population density is 452 persons per one sq km.
Crackers and air quality
Delhi’s air quality worsened alarmingly recently as a fallout of a surge in fumes due to the bursting of firecrackers during Diwali. The air quality took a hit as people used crackers beyond the Supreme Court-prescribed time limit of 8 pm to 10 pm. The presence of 10 micron particles in one cubic meter of air was pegged at 999 micro gram.
The Kerala Pollution Control Board too has gauged the air quality level of the Pathanamthitta district during the Diwali season, and the numbers will be made public on November 15.
District Pollution Control Board engineer Alexander George said that tests were underway at the laboratory in Kochi as the presence of cadmium, nickel and iron should be found out. The air quality in the district was 35 micro gram in one cubic meter of air a day before the Diwali, and this is one of the best in the country.
“It is an offence to openly burn garbage. The practice of burning plastic waste and dried leaves should stop in the villages. The dried leaves can be converted into manure by following the Thumboormuzhi compost model. The burning of stubble after harvest will also result in air pollution. Pathanamthitta will lose its tag of clean air district if adequate measures are not taken to curb unhealthy practices,” warned George.
Thiruvalla and Pampa are exceptions
There is air pollution at Thiruvalla town in Pathanamthitta district. A unit to measure the air quality will be installed in two months at the corporation building in Thiruvalla. Pampa has recorded presence of particulates in the air last year, when the air quality checks started, and the index was close to 400 micro gram, which is quite high. The authorities concerned should take measures to sprinkle water in the area to curb dust pollution during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season which starts this week, and the Pampa lab would be opened on November 16.
Concerns over Pampa air
The air over banks of Pampa River is polluted with loads of dust, a fallout of recent floods. The high level of dust particles in the atmosphere surrounding Ranni, Aranmula, Thottapuzhacherry and Upper Kuttanad are detrimental to the health of people. District Engineer has informed that the Pollution Control Board would be conducting a study at Thottapuzhacherry.
Air pollution is linked to asthma and heart diseases. It also poses many health problems for children, pregnant women and aged people.
A two-day seminar was held in Delhi last week. Of the 15 participants from various states, 12 returned home with fever and severe cough caused most likely by toxic air in the capital city. “More than 40 percent of patients in hospital are suffering from asthma. The air quality in East Delhi was 444 micron the other day. The safe level is between 50 and 100 micron,” said Prof Sakhi John of Jamia Hamdard Varsity.