After the haze and pollution, motorists in the city now have to battle clouds of dust.
These ‘dust storms’, largely from the badly patched up roads, comprise PM2.5 and PM10 particles, and affect road users on a daily basis. Long-term exposure could lead to health issues, warn healthcare experts.
Saidapet resident A. Saravanan, an autorickshaw driver, said he goes back home covered in a layer of dust. “I cannot sleep without a good bath and have to wash my clothes everyday. When I wipe off the grime with a piece of cloth, there is so much dirt on it. My eyes get red and there is dust in my mouth too,” he said.
While many residents are concerned about issues such as uncleared garbage, not many are aware of problems that arise due to unswept roads. T. Nagar resident V.S. Jayaraman said while Corporation conservancy workers do remove garbage from the bins and sweep up paper, plastic and leaves from the road, “they scrub and remove road dust only when there is some VIP movement. Otherwise the dust just flies around,” he said.
When asked what the source of this dust was, experts explained that re-suspended dust on the roads was a result of mud coming from road cuts that are not closed properly, repair works on roads, construction sites, vehicular emissions, dry solid waste from sewer lines, emissions from coal-fired power plants, stormwater drain work and garden dust.
“Road cuts are one of the biggest culprits. VIP roads and interior roads are treated differently. Potholes and road cuts on interior roads take time to restore. The agency responsible for restoration has to keep the contractor ready and take up the work immediately,” explained a retired highways engineer.
Vishvaja Sambath, a dentist and a public health expert, said prolonged exposure to PM2.5 could affect the entire respiratory system. “We must keep in mind that PM 2.5 is not just dust alone, other elements including manganese, nickel and lead, are found in it, leading to various health issues,” she said.
Former Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board member secretary K. Karthikeyan said road dust was a major contributor to particulate matter in the ambient air. “No doubt local bodies are sweeping roads, but what is needed is a concerted effort to reduce this. Automobiles need to be de-carbonised regularly. Pollution from coal-fired industries has to be kept in check,” he said.