Toxic Air IV

#Toxic Air IV – ‘I'm Teary-Eyed Whole Day’

Toxic Air IV

Arun Singh Munda, 26, is a traffic constable in Ranchi, the Capital city of Jharkhand. He braves all kinds of weather and air pollution to report to work at 9 am every day. His day ends at 7 pm and in between these 10 hours, he directs traffic on roads, catches hold of violators. But while he does it, his eyes are constantly watering and burning. Pollution is a work hazard that he cannot avoid.


Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand has a huge forest cover. Naturally, the common perception is that it a green city with healthy, clean air. But people couldn’t be more wrong. Ranchi’s air is getting more toxic by the day. By some media reports, Ranchi is now competing with Delhi in air pollution. Last year, I had got to know during a workshop about vehicular pollution and the PM2.5 levels (particulate matter less than 2.5 micron). It is a dangerous pollutant that can enter the lungs and invite a host of infections. The monthly PM2.5 level in Ranchi was measured at 200 while at Delhi it was 320 (The safe level is considered to be 31-60).

Given the larger forest cover and the lesser number of vehicles as compared to Delhi, Ranchi’s PM 2.5 levels should have been much lesser. But there are multiple sources of air pollution that have worsened the air quality in our city. Besides dust and toxic fumes from vehicles, which openly flout pollution norms, thermal power plants dotting the state of Jharkhand and the mindless incineration of garbage must also be contributing to the foul air.

I am a traffic police personnel, manning signals every day and I have a ground knowledge of what air pollution means. I can also sense when things are getting out of hands, and what it is like to stand exposed to polluted air throughout the day. From my own experience I am telling you things are turning for the worse by each passing day in Ranchi. The days after last Diwali made life hell for those who were to remain on the street for work.

I work from nearly 9 am to 7 pm with a few breaks in between. My eyes are perennially watery and burn throughout the day. But I have to report for work braving all kinds of weather, blistering sun or heavy smog. Our immunity is compromised as compared to others since we are not protected by the confines of an office. It is a work hazard and the only protection we have is an anti-pollution mask.

Trucks carrying waste, untreated garbage lying on roadsides, small roadside businesses and eateries not following waste disposal norms make life even more difficult for us, exposing us to a host of infections.

The treacherous weather in Ranchi conspires against us. It can go from comfortably warm to chilling cold within a matter of minutes with the setting of the sun. So we might have less problem from pollution during the day, but in the evenings the air can get heavy to breathe. Life would be easier for us, if people did their bit to reduce pollution levels. The least vehicle owners can do is abide by vehicular norms.

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