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Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal

Emerald Article: An assessment of air pollution impact for an Indian

highway project: A GIS based approach
Debolina Basu, R.K. Srivastava, R.C. Vaishya

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To cite this document: Debolina Basu, R.K. Srivastava, R.C. Vaishya, (2008),"An assessment of air pollution impact for an Indian
highway project: A GIS based approach", Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 19 Iss: 5 pp. 510 519
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An assessment of air pollution

impact for an Indian highway


A GIS based approach

Debolina Basu

Received 23 December 2007

Revised 4 February 2008
Accepted 18 April 2008

Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering,

Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India, and

R.K. Srivastava and R.C. Vaishya

Department of Civil Engineering,
Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, India
Purpose The paper aims to demonstrate a geographic information system (GIS) based study on
environmental impact assessment (EIA), due to air pollution, for a highway project.
Design/methodology/approach An approach has been designed to explore the scope for the
combination of EIA and GIS in development for the proposed Allahabad Bypass Project. The air
quality in the study area has been quantified in terms of the air pollution index (API). GIS has been
exploited to obtain the spatial information for the prediction of air pollution impact at different
suburban and rural areas adjacent to the stretch of bypass.
Findings The study has enabled the researchers to understand the variation in air quality along the
total stretch of the bypass keeping in view the with and without project scenarios. The results
obtained from the study show considerable increase in air pollution levels from baseline to the
projected period of 20 years, due to gradual increase in vehicular traffic along the highway.
Originality/value The information presented in this paper serves as an example to quantify the
negative impacts of countryside air quality associated with highway projects. The approach utilized
the spatial evaluation of air pollution and helps to provide a critical insight to the problem, which is not
apparent while carrying out such an exercise in the traditional manner.
Practical implications Hopefully, this study will encourage the highway planners in India to
make a wider application of the technique for an indepth assessment of environmental impacts.
Keywords Air pollution, Roads, Environmental regulations, Transportation,
Geographic information systems, India
Paper type Case study

Management of Environmental
Quality: An International Journal
Vol. 19 No. 5, 2008
pp. 510-519
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/14777830810894201

A continuous growth in vehicular traffic during the last two decades has demanded the
construction of new or extension of existing highways to develop an improved
transportation network in India. The development of an efficient and environmentally
sound transportation system has assumed much greater importance in India in the
The authors acknowledge the cooperation extended by the officials of National Highway
Authority of India, Allahabad, and for providing the useful information on the proposed
Allahabad Bypass Project.

quest to achieve quality urban life for the inhabitants. Assessment of the
environmental impacts of such largescale developmental projects would help to
meet the goals of increased wellbeing and greater environmental stability for the
present and future generations of the country.
The environmental impacts due to construction of highways are temporary in
nature and these would affect the population residing in areas near the construction
site. Such impacts are caused due to movement of earthmoving machinery, operation of
construction and supporting equipment, various civil construction activities, etc.
However, greater environmental impact would continue to develop due to increasing
vehicular traffic after the highway project becomes operational.
Some of the general environmental impacts caused due to the implementation of a
highway project are:
damage caused to forestry, agriculture and surface water resources;
disruption of natural habitat as well as migration routes of animals;
erosion and contamination of soil;
damage caused to landscapes, buildings, archaeological sites, etc.; and
detrimental impacts on air or water quality, ambient noise levels, etc.
However, the impacts caused during the operation of highways are:
effect on adjacent residential and commercial buildings leading to deterioration
of painted surfaces due to the nuisance of dust;
effect on roadside plants due to buildup of dust cover on the leaves and spotting
of leaves;
effect on atmospheric aesthetics like reduced visibility, discoloration of air, etc.
reduced pedestrian and traffic safety;
reduction in environmental quality at sensitive receptors, e.g. hospitals,
educational institutions and other sensitive landuses; and
effect on human health in the form of irritation in the eye, headache or minor
respiratory difficulties to people working in shops adjacent to the highway,
roadside mobile vendors, drivers of vehicles, people residing by the side of
roadway, etc. due to high air and noise pollution levels.
The traditional environmental impact assessment techniques can focus on a given area
in its totality; but these are essentially aspatial in character. Such techniques involve
mathematical and quantitative approaches to analyse the environmental impacts of the
proposed projects. Further, these procedures are rarely concerned with the spatial
differentiation across the impacted area. Indeed, it would be much complicated and
laborious to incorporate the changes in the presentation of huge data generated
through the various steps in the conventional EIA process. Hence, the development of
sustainable transport system in India demands a relook into the approach used for
planning and evaluation of the system.
In this context, the need for application of GIS has been strongly felt due to its
versatile capability in capturing, integrating and displaying the data, which is spatially
referenced to the earth. In GIS, the data is stored as layers or coverages and it becomes
easier to work with complex spatial problems and revise the data set without

An assessment
of air pollution



overhauling the entire information system. Moreover, GIS would allow more
constructive analysis involving overlay, modeling and buffering facility.
The benefits of using GIS in EIA for the management of a large data set, overlay
operation or trend analysis has been highlighted indicating that the effectiveness of
EIA can be improved considerably through the application of GIS in relation to data
preparation, presentation of results and analysis (Eedy, 1995; Joao and Fonseca, 1996).
A regression-based methodology can be successfully applied for mapping the traffic
related air pollution level within a GIS environment (Briggs et al., 1997). A GIS based
scoping method may identify the pertinent environmental effects and ascertain the
requirements of institutional infrastructure under time and budget constraints
(Hackley et al., 1998). Also, the information generated in impact identification and
prediction stages of EIA can be used to assess the significance of impact through the
GIS assisted computation of a set of impact indices for various environmental
components like air pollution, water and biological resources (Antunes et al., 2001).
Indeed, transportation infrastructures are highly responsible for quantitative and
qualitative contribution to pollution of the surrounding environment. A sound EIA
process for transportation infrastructure planning and development has to be coupled
to other commonly considered engineering aspects. As compared to various other
developmental projects, the highways are likely to affect the surrounding natural areas
much more due to their linear structure (Thompson, 1997). The impact of a highway
project can be quantified by computing the expected increase in pollution level
A review of related literature reveals that various contributions have been made by
research workers on the application of GIS in EIA. However, this paper has aimed to
look into the application of GIS for evaluation of air quality pertaining to Indian
Highway Project for impact level assessment. The assessment of impact magnitude
carried out in this study relates to finding the difference in environmental quality for
with and no project scenarios considering the major influencing components in air
pollution and the time frame of impact.
Study area
The present study area is the proposed Allahabad Bypass Project that starts at 158
kilometers of the National Highway-2 (NH-2) near Kokhraj and ends at 245 kilometers
of NH-2 near Handia. This stretch of highway helps to bypass the congested city of
Allahabad in India and traverses through the districts of Kausambi, Pratapgarh and
Allahabad in India. The location of this stretch is shown in Figure 1.
The NH-2 connects the metro cities namely Delhi and Kolkata and it is a part of the
golden quadrangle of National Highways. The Package B stretching from Kokhraj to
Handia is a subdivision of the Package III of NH-2 that runs from Khaga to Varanasi. It
is envisaged that the proposed bypass would reduce the vehicular traffic load on the
Package IIIB portion of NH-2. This project would provide the four-laning facility to
strengthen the existing two-lane portion of NH-2 running from Khaga to Varanasi.
The background air pollution data with respect to NOx, CO, SO2 and SPM was
obtained from six different monitoring stations namely Kokhraj (start of bypass),
Allahabad-Lucknow State Highway (SH-38) crossing, Allahabad-Pratapgarh State

An assessment
of air pollution

Figure 1.
Location of the proposed
Allahabad Bypass (ABP

Highway (SH-9) crossing, Allahabad-Jaunpur State Highway (SH-7) crossing, Malaka

Village and Handia (end of bypass) along the corridor of bypass project. In order to
ascertain the baseline condition, air pollution monitoring was done on 24-hour basis
during the post-monsoon and winter seasons and the final map has been developed
considering the yearly average concentration. The number of Sampling Stations and
their locations were chosen in such a manner that they would represent the air
pollution data for the community properly.
The scanned topographical maps No. 63G and 63K of Survey of India, Lucknow,
were registered and the rectified map was mosaiced to unify the total stretch using the
software ERDAS IMAGINE (Version 8.3). Also, the scanned location map of the stretch
of the bypass was rectified with respect to topographic sheets using image-to-image
registration. Subsequently, these raster maps were incorporated into the GIS software
for the purpose of vectorisation and creation of shape file. The shape file was converted
to raster layers after digitizing and feeding of attributes. The raster analysis was



performed by using the Raster Calculator of Spatial Analyst available in ArcInfo

(Version 8.3). The baseline ground level pollution concentration data has been used as
input to the GIS software. A spatial interpolation (Kriging) was employed to assess the
concentration of pollutant variables at the unsampled locations in the study zone.
The pollution level can be characterized by the air quality data as one overall entity,
rather than considering a series of concentrations of several individual pollutants.
Thus, air pollution index (API) has been used to express the pollutant levels in a more
familiar manner by summarizing the existing environmental data and communicating
the information on the quality of affected baseline environment. This has helped to
evaluate the vulnerability of air quality to pollution and serve as a basis for expressing
the impacts by forecasting the difference between pertinent indices linked to with
and without project scenarios. An attempt has been made to correlate the existing as
well as the projected pollution levels of various pollutants to the respective ambient air
quality standards, considering such standards as reference baseline for each pollutant
and then converting the concentrations of the pollutants into a percentage of the
standard. The final Air Pollution Index was obtained by summing up the elemental
values of percentages for the pollutants under consideration. The calculation for the
various pollutants has been done based on Equation (1) as shown below (Rao and Rao,



i 1; 2; 3 . . . n

where, Ai (Ci / Si) 100

Ci concentration of ith pollutant.
Si air quality standard for ith pollutant.

air pollution index.

number of pollutants selected.

The individual subindex layers were calculated for each of the selected pollutants with
the help of raster calculator of the Spatial Analyst tool based on the interpolated as well
as the standard value layer prescribed for each of the pollutants. All the subindex
layers expressed as percentage of the standard were finally overlaid to obtain the final
index layer. This layer was again reclassified according to the rating scale given below
in Table I.

Table I.
Air quality rating scale

Index value

Air quality

0 25
26 50
51 75
76 100
. 100

Clean air
Light air pollution
Moderate air pollution
Heavy air pollution
Severe air pollution

Source: Rao and Rao (1994)

Result analysis
In this exercise, the study area has been confined to a buffer zone of 2.5 km from the
highway centerline. The variation in air quality along the total stretch of the bypass
project has been presented in Figure 2, Figure 3 and Figure 4. It is observed from
Figure 2 that the API varies from a low level at the Malaka village to severe level at the
SH-7 crossing during the baseline period. Also, the air pollution levels are quite high at
Handia and Kokhraj during the baseline period. The API for the projected year 2024 as
presented in Figure 3 shows considerable increase in pollution level and this is due to
the anticipated increase in traffic volume for the coming years. The API increases
considerably to signify severe air pollution levels in the areas namely Kokhraj and
Handia during the year 2024.
Further, the difference in air quality index has been given in Figure 4 for with and
without project scenarios. Figure 4 indicates the critical deterioration in air quality
around Kokhraj and Handia i.e. at the start and end of the bypass respectively. It is
observed from Figure 4 that the air pollution reduces gradually from a severe level at

An assessment
of air pollution

Figure 2.
Baseline air pollution



Figure 3.
Air pollution index for the
year 2024

Kokhraj to attain a moderate value at SH-38 crossing. The stretch of bypass between
the state highway junctions namely SH-38 and SH-7 would have low-to-moderate levels
of air pollution during the post-project scenario. Also, the air pollution level increases
gradually from the safe value at SH-7 crossing to reach a severe level at Handia.
It is evident from this study that the integration of GIS with EIA can provide a
powerful tool for addressing the complex environmental problems resulted due to the
development of infrastructure projects. Hopefully, this study would help to anticipate
the air pollution vis-a`-vis environmental impacts for adopting the possible abatement
The air pollution due to vehicular traffic is influenced by a number of sensitive factors
like speed of the vehicle, condition of vehicle engine, traffic congestion, pavement

An assessment
of air pollution

Figure 4.
Final air pollution index
(difference of the with
and without project API)

condition etc. In general, the traffic flow through the state highways and other local
roads takes place at a slow speed. Moreover, the movement of vehicles follows the
stop-and-go pattern. In fact, a long queue of light and heavy vehicles often develops
along the state highways due to blockade of traffic at the different junctions.
However, an improved vehicular speed would be possible after the bypass project
goes into operation. Hopefully, the through traffic would flow at much higher speed
along the stretch of bypass. Inevitably, there would be considerable reduction in traffic
congestion vis-a`-vis reduced queuing of vehicles along the state highways. Hence, the
air pollution levels would assume low-to-moderate values at the crossings of state
highways. Also, a similar trend in air pollution would be observed in respect of the
different villages located at the intermediate positions along the stretch of bypass.
The junctions of the bypass project and NH-2 i.e. the start and end of the stretch
would pose to be the critical areas of air pollution. These two areas namely Kokhraj
and Handia are densely populated. Moreover, the existence of local markets along the



roadside leads to more influx of people making the place overcrowded. Thus, the
vehicular traffic would slow down in these areas. Consequently, an increased level of
air pollution would develop at these two junctions primarily due to slower traffic
movement and queuing of vehicles.
This paper has discussed the spatial approach for air pollution impact assessment
pertaining to the proposed highway in Allahabad district. The GIS based study has
provided the opportunity to generate interpolated information for the prediction of air
pollution impact at the different sensitive areas like villages, junctions of highways,
other public places, etc. An approach has been made to produce the air quality impact
maps for spatial evaluation of impact levels through the overlay of baseline
information with the project parameters. The overlay of the baseline information map
with the highway stretch layout has been utilized for an indepth identification of air
pollution impact. This study on air pollution impact assessment illustrates the
capability that can be extended to characterize the EIA study for other Indian
Antunes, P., Santos, R. and Jordao, L. (2001), The application of geographic information system
to determine environmental impact significance, Journal of Environmental Impact
Assessment Review, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 511-35.
Briggs, D.J., Collins, S., Elliott, P., Fischer, P., Kingham, S., Lebret, E., Pryl, K., Reeuwijk, H.V.,
Smallbone, K. and Veen, A. (1997), Mapping urban air pollution using GIS: a regression-based
approach, International Journal of Geographic Information Science, Vol. 11 No. 7,
pp. 699-718.
Eedy, W. (1995), The use of GIS in environmental assessment, Impact Assessment, Vol. 13,
pp. 199-206.
Hacklay, M., Feitelson, E. and Doytsher, Y. (1998), The potential of a GIS-based scoping system:
an Israeli proposal and case study, Journal of Environmental Impact Assessment Review,
Vol. 18, pp. 439-59.
Joao, E. and Fonseca, A. (1996), The role of GIS in improving environmental assessment
effectiveness: theory vs. practice, Impact Assessment, Vol. 14, pp. 371-87.
Rao, M.N. and Rao, H.V.N. (1994), Air Pollution, Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing, New Delhi.
Thompson, S., Treweek, J.R., Veieth, N. and Thurling, D.J. (1997), The ecological component of
environmental impact assessment: a critical review of British Environmental Statements,
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 157-71.
Further reading
Canter, L.W. (1996), Environmental Impact Assessment, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
Lo, C.P. and Yeung, A.K.W. (2002), Concepts and Techniques of Geographic Information Systems,
Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi.
Sinha, S. (1998), Environmental impact assessment: an effective management tool, TERI
Information Monitor on Environmental Science, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 1-7.
About the authors
Debolina Basu is pursuing her doctoral studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay,
India, in the area of biological treatment of hazardous industrial wastewater. She has completed

her Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Department of Civil Engineering, Motilal
Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, India, in the year 2005. Debolina Basu is the
corresponding author and can be contacted at: debolina
R.K. Srivastava obtained his PhD in Rock Mechanics from the Indian Institute of Technology,
Delhi. Currently, he holds the position of Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering,
Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad. Professor Srivastava has published
over 140 papers dealing with geotechnical and environmental geotechnology engineering.
R.C Vaishya was awarded a PhD in Environmental Engineering in 2001 from the Indian
Institute of Technology Bombay. Since 1993, his teaching and research interests have been in the
areas of low cost water treatment processes, air quality monitoring, environmental impact
assessment and environmental auditing. Currently, he teaches and conducts research work as
Assistant Professor at the Civil Engineering Department, Motilal Nehru National Institute of
Technology, Allahabad.

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An assessment
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