Beyond the Bricks: Unravelling Air Pollution's Stealthy Grip in Hyderabad

The decision to initiate a comprehensive study arose when an ongoing construction project in Hyderabad surfaced various health....
Air Pollution Hyderabad
Air Pollution Hyderabad

The extent of air pollution is not solely determined by proximity to a construction site; rather, it is influenced by wind tunnels and the extent of high-rise construction.

In early November 2023, as New Delhi grappled with a hazardous spike in air quality, the Delhi government swiftly imposed a construction ban, acknowledging the well-known contribution of construction sites to airborne dust and particulate matter. However, the broader impact of construction activities on a city's air quality and the subsequent health effects remained elusive. Seeking answers, a team from International Institute of Information Technology (III-T), Hyderabad, embarked on a multi-faceted study, blending internet of things (IoT) technology with real-world observations.

The decision to initiate a comprehensive study arose when an ongoing construction project in Hyderabad surfaced various health concerns among residents, from nose and throat irritation to increased asthma attacks in children.

Over 40 days, the team collected a staggering 65,000 data points, incorporating indoor and outdoor scenarios using sensors in a residential complex adjacent to a construction site. Complementing this data, a camera node captured construction images throughout the day and night, intricately linked with air pollution data.

This research has led to the publication of a paper titled ‘Comparative Analysis of Construction-Related Air Pollution In Indoor and Outdoor Environments’, which won the Best Paper award at the 11th International Conference on Environment Pollution and Prevention (ICEPP) 2023 in Brisbane, Australia in November. 

What They Found 

"People typically assume safety indoors by closing windows and turning on ACs. Our study revealed that indoor air quality turns toxic without adequate ventilation," emphasized Rishikesh Bose, lead author of the paper. Carbon dioxide levels, a marker of poor ventilation, were scrutinized using sensors deployed during the pandemic for monitoring crowded spaces.

Surprisingly, the proximity to the construction site wasn't the sole determinant of elevated PM2.5 and PM10 levels. A residential block farther away reported the highest mean values, attributed to wind patterns and wind ducts influencing particulate matter dispersion. The block closest to the construction site, despite exhibiting the highest outdoor PM10 levels, demonstrated the lowest CO2 emissions and indoor pollution, thanks to residents ensuring excellent ventilation by keeping windows wide open.

The impact of this research extends beyond knowledge dissemination. "Construction activity without proper care is dangerous for everyone nearby," warned Prof. Kavita Vemuri who is looking into the health aspects of the project. A formal complaint lodged with the Central Pollution Control Board underscores their commitment to translating findings into actionable change. Prof. Sachin Chaudhari,  associate professor, IIIT-H, hinted at a forthcoming study examining the long-term effects of pollution, coinciding with the construction of a new academic block on the IIITH campus. 

This narrative unfolds as a critical exploration, exposing the hidden dangers of construction-related air pollution, pushing for awareness, and advocating for meaningful interventions.

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