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JOURNAL OF ENVIRON. SCIENCE &ENGG. VOL.49, No.I,P.

22 - 27, January 2007

Atmospheric Pollution:
A Case Study of Degrading Urban Air Quality over Punjab, India
PARMJIT SINGH SEHRA

This paper presents the results of a case study of urban air quality over a densely
populated city Ludhiana situated in Punjab, India, in the form of monthly and annual
average concentrations of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM), N02 and S02 for the
periods 1988-1989, 1994-1999 and 2001-2005 which is generally found to be increasing
with time and thus requires immediate corrective measures lest the situation becomes
totally uncontrollable. The present situation is as bad as in other metropolitan Indian
cities, although it seems to have somewhat improved as indicated by the latest 2001-
2005 data in comparison with the past 1988-1989 and 1994-1999 data, but much more still
needs to be done. In addition to the industrial and vehicular pollution, the agricultural
pollution due to the burning of wheat and rice straws by the farmers should also be
[
checked because it also creates tremendous pollution in the atmosphere.

Introduction years, an increasing emphasis has been placed on the use of
rice husk as an alternate fuel due to its easy availability and
The city of Ludhiana in Punjab occupies a place of lesser cost.
pride on the industrial map ofIndia and can be rightly called
the home of small scale and household industries, and is Since rice husk contains cellulose and resinous
thus popularly known as the "Manchester of India". There substances, its burning increases smoke content in the air
has been a rapid growth of industries in Ludhiana, causing irritation to the eyes and breathing problems.
especially, after the independence of the country. The Particulate matter from the rice husk burning is either ash
growth has further been enhanced due to various facilities or carbonaceous material resulting from incomplete burning.
and incentives provided to the industrial entrepreneurs by More than 2000 metric tons of rice husk is burnt every day
the Government for setting up industry in the industrial by the industry as fuel which results in significant amount
areas and focal points in Ludhiana, Punjab, India. Thus, ofunburnt carbon and particulate matter along with gaseous
most of the industrial activities have been confined to the pollutants which are carried over to the atmosphere with
developed industrial areas. However, there is also a fuel gases. In addition to the burning of rice husk, air
mushroom growth ofmajor industries along the G.T. Road pollution in the city is also caused by burning of flue coal
towards Ambala as well as towards Amritsar. and oil, etc.
Major sources of air pollution in Ludhiana The total number of industrial units in and around
Major industrial sources of air pollution in Ludhiana Ludhiana city has increased from 6918 in 1972 to 79000 in
are (i) textile industry including dyeing, fmishing, and wool 1993, which has now increased further also. There are about
) combing, (ii) miscellaneous industry like food products, 1585 units, which are highly polluting and fall under the
card board mills, steel re-rolling mills, vegetable ghee mills, red category of industries. Out of the total 1585 highly
and chemical industries, etc., and (iii) arc furnaces, cupola polluting units, about 1075 are contributing substantially
furnaces, and induction furnaces, etc. Compared to these, towards air pollution. Due to rapid urbanisation and
emissions of other industrial sources in Ludhiana are of industrialisation in this town, its population has also
lesser importance. increased from 10.411akhs in 1991 to almost double now.

A majority of these industries use steam as the heat A good fraction of the air pollution in the city
transfer medium. The predominant fuel utilised for the originates from the vehicular traffic and railway operation,
production of steam is coal, fuel oil and high speed diesel. particularly, in the vicinity of the railway station and
Shortage of conventional fuel has generated interest in locomotive yard. In Ludhiana, some of the roads have not
utilisation of the agro-residues such as paddy straw, wheat been metalled and some are damaged due to heavy traffic
straw,etc., whichhave a relatively low calorificvalue. In recent load and lack of regular repair. Substantial dust remains in

*DepartmentofAgronomy, AgrometeorologyandForestry, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana - 141 004, Punjab, India
A case study of degrading urban air quality over Punjab, India

suspension due to heavy traffic intensity causing poor represent background, residential, commercial and
visibility, respiratory problems and eye irritation in addition industrial areas have been kept in mind while selecting the
to general nuisance. locations of monitoring stations. Thus, three stations were
set up at the following locations: (1) Milk Plant representing
There has been a rapid increasein the number of vehicles the background concentration of the pollutants, (2) Rita
in the city overthe past few years. In Ludhiana, there are about Sewing Machine representing highly industrialised area of
5.5lakh vehiclesincludingthree-wheelers,scooters,cars,motor the city, and (3) PPCB Office Building! Vishavkarma Chowk
cycles, trucks, and buses, etc. Scooters and motor cycles are in Industrial Area-B of the city.
the major transport source in the city. These along with three-
wheelers are the major contributors of carbon monoxide (CO) SPM in the ambient atmosphere in the size range of
and hydro-carbons (HC) pollution in Ludhiana. The diesel 0.1 to 100 microns (mm) were collected on 8" x 10" glass
powered heavy vehicles add to the air pollution problem by micro fibre sheets by means of high volume air samples
emittingoutjet black smoke.The problem is furtheraggravated and estimated gravimetrically. Oxides of Nitrogen (NO.) were
whensomevehiclesuse adulteratedpetrol mixed withkerosene determined by bubbling the ambient air samples through
oil. The emissions from such vehicles are very high in a solution of sodium arsenite and sodium hydroxide, and then
Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) such as carbon and soot determined spectrophotometrically. Analysis of all
particles resulting in smoke, and noise pollution. the pollutants such as the SPM, NO., and S02' etc., was
conducted as per I the prescribed standard methods
Dispenion conditions in Ludhiana (Anonymous, 1992).
The concentration of air pollutants and their impact on Regular monitoring was started at all the stations in
human health,-plants, and materials not only depends on the June 1988 with the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB)
emissions but also on the way the air pollutants after their Office Building presently located in industrial area-B of the
emissioninto theatmosphereare dispersedand finallyremoved. city having recorded its regular observations there
This period is called the transmission period for which the subsequently. Monitoring was done at all the stations thrice
'. main climatological factors of importance include wind direction, a week. SPM was monitored for 24 hours with 8 hours
wind speed, and atmospheric stability. It is thus possible to averaging, whereas N02 and S02 were monitored for 24 hours
discuss in a qualitative way three significantly different periods, with 4 hours averaging.
such as the monsoon period (July to September), the summer
period (April to June), and the winter period (October to March), The SPM, N02 and S02 data for the above mentioned
which include the equinoctial periods also. stations has been analysed for 3 time periods, namely, (i)
March 1988-December 1989, (ii) 1994-1999 as discussed by
During the monsoon period, most factors of influence Sehra (2001),2 and (iii) 2001-2005. In these observations,
result in low concentration of pollutants. While the wind the f11"sttime period, however, does not include the S02
speed is moderate, other factors like high rainfall and monitoring. For the second time period, data is presented
washout, etc., lead to decrease of pollutants. The summer in the form of annual averages, but the latest third time
period is characterised by high solar radiation, high wind period includes both the monthly as well as annual average
erosion, moderate stability and almost zero precipitation concentrations of these parameters.
without any washout. There is thus high SPM since wind
Results and discussion
erosions due to high wind speed and minimal vegetation
cover and also burning of agricultural residues lead to high The results of this investigation are presented in
SPM background concentration. On the other hand, Table 1 and Table 2. The. seasonal influence of varying
expected concentration of pollution during the winter period weather conditions on the SPM, NO. and S02
is in the medium range, although high concentration of the concentrations is well pronounced with their annual cycles
SPM during October and November gives an indication showing two maxima and two minima. The first maximum
that burning of the agricultural residues after the monsoon occurs during the pre-monsoon summer months of April-
harvest might have a substantial impact on air quality. June. This maximum coincides with strong surface winds
and a generally dry atmosphere which increases natural
Methodology of air pollution monitoring
wind erosion. The following monsoon minimum is well
The entire area ofLudhiana city has been studied on developed and caused by factors such as increased vertical
the basis of land use pattern and micrometeorological dispersion, washout by monsoon rains and suppressed
conditions. The land use pattern, wind conditions and also wind erosion. This minimum is followed by a maximum
the WHO criteria that the monitoring stations should during the months of October and Nevember possibly due
PamJjit Singh Sebra

Table 1: Atmualaverage concentrations ofSPM, NOz and SOz
All values in Ilglm3
Year 1988 1989 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Standard values
Annual 24bomty
average IM!'IIge
SPM
Site-I 'lA7 313 213 260 251 368 314 321 143 160 196 181 214 70 100
Site-2 566 525 450 495 436 413 588 526 234 229 289 2S4 266 360 SOO
Site-3 490 509 471 263 336 425 548 537 203 278 22S 331 233 360 SOO

NOz
Site-I 26 21 51 48 43 42 46 40 30 30 31 33 34 15 30
Site-2 33 29 SO SO 45 45 41 40 31 33 36 38 37 00 120
Site-3 Z2 34 51 SO 44 45 42 40 31 33 40 ro 44 00 120
SOz
Site-1 - - 21 15 18 22 21 11 11 10 16 15 30
Site-2 - - 21 16 17 21 11 12 12 21 21 00 120
Site-3 - - 21 19 16 21 11 12 12 24 22 00 120

- - -
Site I VerkaMilk Plant, Site2 Rita Sewing Machine, Site 3 PPCB Pffice BuildinglVishavkarmaChowk in Ludhiana,Punjab during 1988-
89,1994-99 and 2001-2005. Standard values of the SPM, NOz' and SOzgiven in the last colunms are derived from the annual arithmetic mean
of minimum 104measurementsin a yeartaken twice a week 24 hourly at uniform intervals.Minimum and maximum values for the period 1988-
2005 are underlined.

to the burning of agricultural residues after the monsoon 339 and 352 llg/m3 in the months of December, April and
harvest. It is difficult to relate the following secondary December (all in 2005), respectively, at site 1, 2 and 3, due to
rninimllm during the winter months January-March to the wheat and paddy straw burning by the farmers in their fields
prevailing atmospheric conditions. Quite interestingly, after rabi and kharif crops harvesting in the months of April
the background station at the Verka Milk Plant shows the and September/October. This trend was noticed in the other
most pronounced seasonal variation of the pollutants years also with small variations depending upon the natural
concentrations. This is possible because industrial meteorological conditions.
emissions usually show no seasonal variations. The
Further, the data is interpreted in the form of general
seasonal variations of NOz and SOz are less pronounced
patterns, such as comparison of mean values, the general
but are recognizable, in particular, its monsoon minimum
influence of wind direction which transports the various
and two pre/post monsoon maxima.
pollutants to the sampling site, and the seasonal variations
It is clear from Table 2, which gives the monthly where the influence of varying weather conditions can
average values of SPM, NOz and SOz for the period from be easily observed. From a general overview of the
2001 to 2005, that the minimum values of SPM at the sites statistically relevant values of SPM of the present
1, 2 and 3 in 2001 were 76, 103 and 1411lg/m3in the months investigation, it is found that the SPM values at the Verka
of July and September during the monsoon season due to Milk Plant station are significantly lower than those of the
the washout of the pollutants by the monsoon rains. This other stations. The difference "between this station and the
trend of minimum SPM during the monsoon period other stations representing industrial areas such as the Rita
generally continued for 2002, 2003, .2004 and 2005 also with Sewing Machine is remarkable in their SPM values, although
small variations at some sites due to variations in the a greater data collection is further required for establishing
monsoon rains. these fmdings on a flfm footing.
The maximum values of the SPM at three different By setting the SPM average concentration at the Verka
sites 1, 2 and 3 in 2001 were found to be 177, 341 and 289 Milk Plant (background station) as 100%, relative SPM
llg/m3in December, September and July. These were 296, values at the Rita Sewing Machine (industrial area) was
A ease study of degrading urban air quality over Punjab, India

Table 2 : Monthly average values of the ambient air quality data ofSPM, NOz and SOz for the period 2001 to 2005 at three sites

y . Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug . Sept Oct Nov Dee
-
Site 1 SPM 128 115 136 172 176 125 76 124 160 171 152 177
NOx 30 31 28 31 31 31 31 31 Zl 32 30 31
S02 11 11 10 12 12 10 12 12 11 10 12 12
-
Site 2 SPM ZlO 242 219 236 244 155 103 249 341 324 231 197
D»1 NOx 31 31 '29 31 31 31 31 32 30 34 33 31
S01 11 11 10 12 12 10 11 12 10 11 13 13
-
Site 3 SPM 217 228 187 232 231 228 289 2JJ7 141 150 163 159
NOx 31 31 '29 31 31 31 31 32 31 36 32 31
S02 13 11 11 12 12 10 11 12 10 11 13 12
-
Site 1 SPM 113 128 149 206 20S 20S 192 % 84 158 164 222
NOx 32 32 31 31 32 '29 31 ZI 25 '29 33 31
S02 13 13 12 12 12 13 11 9 8 9 11 11
Site- 2 .SPM 180 168 190 273 .26S 209 267 163 171 212 310 344
D)Z NOx 32 .32 31 32 32 31 31 33 33 35 J7 35
SO, 13 14 12 12 13 13 11 11 11 11 12 13
Site- 3 SPM 298 325 286 315 248 Zl6 290 240 ZlI 2'29 420 134
NOx 32 32 31 32 32 32 34 34 33 39 39 30
S02 13 13 12 12 12 13 11 11 10 12 15 12
-
Site 1 SPM 228 187 182 224 206 234 121 132 136 199 249 2S7
NOx '29 '29 30 30 31 34 28 24 Zl 36 38 41
S02 10 9 11 9 10 11 9 11 13 11 10 12
-
Site 2 SPM 247 218 243 244 394 360 286 325 Zl9 334 302 235
D)3 NOx 31 34 32 33 35 39 39 '29 ZI 42 42 46
S02 12 12 11 11 11 12 9 12 13 12 13 14
Site- 3 SPM 128 145 163 170 20S 204 - Zll 321 268 306 292
30 .35 32 32 43 42 - Zl 44 SO 49 56
NOx
11 11 11 10 9. 10 - '13 14 13 16 18
.S02
Site- 1 SPM 169 119 148 202 195 192 160 217 246 192 217 189
NOx 44 36 30 30 '29 33 31 '29 30 36 34 30
SOz 13 13 16 15 15 12 15 16 17 16 22 18
Site- 2 SPM Zl2 193 192 184 223 212 357 261 m 263 344 Zl2
3XM NOx 55 41 J7 39 34 32 39 34 34 38 41 36
SO, 22 19 18 16 14 16 23 26 31 23
-
Site 3 SPM ZlI 280 319 395 292 282 315 249 303 489 5(J7 ZlO
NOx OJ 79 75 6'2 56 57 ifl 54 55 58 61 51
S02 25 28 '29 26 19 14 21 23 28 31 ZI
contd...
P~it SinghSehra
contd...Table 2

Year Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dee
-
Site 1 SPM 163 159 155 281 219 zn 185 145 167 m 295 296
NOx 26 28 31 33 31 32 31 32 36 46 37
S02 14 15 19 19 18 10 10 10 21 26 26 21
-
Site 2 SPM 219 230 195 339 Z79 300 264 230 217 274 320 330
2005 NOx 33 33 39 36 35 37 40 33 42 43 47 36
802 19 17 10 24 10 10 10 21 23 13 26 21
-
Site 3 SPM 166 122 154 213 320 313 235 199 185 213 341 352
NOx 35 32 49 52 48 41 42 48 47 46 39
802 14 18 22 21 22 21 10 23 24 26 26 22
-
Site I : Verka Plant (Outskirts of the city),
-
Site 2 ; Rita Sewing Machine (Industrial area), and
-
Site 3 : Office Building / Vishavkarma Chowk (Industrial and residential area)
Minimum and Maximum values of the SPM are underlined in this Table
Source;- P.P.C.B.

found to be 200%. Since the Verka Milk Plant station is situation through the role played by the 'PPCB' and public
located in the south-western (SW) outer fringe ofLudhiana, awareness.
it is not directly affected by industrial and commercial
residual emissions as the main wind direction is north-west Although the latest data for the period 2001 2005 -
shows soml: improvement in air quality as compared with
(NW) and south-east (SE), this result seems quite plausible.
the past periods 1988-1989 and 1994-1999, but still much
This station is thus mainly influenced by the background more needs to be done.
concentration of the SPM. The influence of industrial dust
emission can be seen through the higher values of the SPM The analysis of the past and latest data also shows
in the industrial area. The average N02 concentrations at that besides the industrial and vehicular pollution, there is
all the stations do not differ significantly. It seems that tremendous agricultural pollution also due to the burning
emission, dispersion, and chemical reaction pattern of this of wheat and rice straws by the farmers in their fields after
air pollutant, i.e., (N02) needs further studies to understand harvesting of their rabi (wheat) and kharif (rice) crops in
it completely. In particular, more rural background stations April and September/October months, which also need to
which are uninfluenced by urban emissions are needed. It be checked by all means for better air quality and healthy
also seems that the stations are more influenced by living.
emissions in their vicinity itself. Farmers are resorting to wheat stubble and rice straw
Conelusions burning after harvesting their wheat and rice crops in April
and September/October. They think that fire is the most
The results of monitoring of air quality in Ludhiana economical and easiest way to clear their fields for further
during the period 1988-1989, and those of the annual sowing.But they are ignorant of the fact that fire in their fields
averages of three pollutants concentrations during the kills friendly pests and bacteria that increases the fertility of
periods 1994-1999 and 2001-2005 including their monthly soil. It also brings about adverse environmental changes. The
averages for 2001-2005 have been analysed, which show SPM left in the air due to fire are also considered to be one of
that the present situation is far from satisfactory. the reasons for dense fog/smog that engulfs the region in
The minimum and maximum values of the SPM at site- winters.
1 in the outskirts of the city were found 143 and 363 Ilg/m3 Besides, the SPM generated due to fire can cause
in 2001 and 1997, respectively, while their values in the respiratory and other health problems for the people. The
Industrial area at site 2 and 3 were found 229 and 588 J1g/m3 farmers themselves are worst affected as they come in direct
in 2002 and 1998, and 203 and 548 J1g/m3in 2001 and 1998, contactwiththe ill-effectsoffield fires.It is,therefore,absolutely
respectively, indicating somewhat improvement in the necessary to spread its awareness in the farmers so that they
A case study of degrading urban air quality over Punjab, India

can stop burning wheat stubble and rice straw, and use it for ReferenceS
making manurefor their fields.
1. Anonymous, A Report on Status of Ambient Air
The dependence on the relevant factors of influence Quality of Ludhiana City, SAAQRlPPCB/1I1992,
is absolutely necessary. Monitoring of the prevailing air
pollution bas thus to be intensified by adding more stations
Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), Patiala -
147001, Punjab, India (1992).
and expanding to other components, particularly, carbon
monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (HC), etc. Knowledge of 2. Sebra,P.S.,HazardousPollutionProblemoverLudbiana,
the chemical composition of the Suspended Particulate Punjab, India. Third International Conferenceon UrbJn
Matter is necessary to assess its possible health impacts. Air Quality and Fifth Saturn Workshop, Measurement,
Air quality modelling by use of a dispersion model based Modelling and Management 19-23 March 2001, The
on an emission inventory would be a vital prerequisite to Poseidon Hotel Resort, Loutraki, Greece. Organized by
optimise a sound monitoring programme for understanding the Environmental Physics Group of the Institute of
the cycle of relevant air pollutants in a better way and to
Physics, London, the Environmental Research
plan necessary measures to control air pollution in
Ludhiana. Laboratory INTRP, NCSR "Demokritos", and the
University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield ALl09AB in
Acknowledgements collaboration with SATURN, TRAPOS and C()ST71S,
The author is grateful to the Punjab Pollution Control U.K, Supported by AWMA, IUAPPA and EURASAP.
Board (PPCB), VatavaranBhawan, NabhaRoad, Patiala-147 Paper No. UAP.Pl.18, Extended Abstracts CD-ROM,
00 I, Punjab, India, for providing all the required information Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place, London WIN
for the present study. 3DH,UK.