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Noida twin towers demolition | Should NCR residents worry about pollution, health?

The larger Delhi-NCR area may escape pollution on August 28 but a low pressure in the area on August 29 will likely blow the debris towards Delhi-NCR. Seek immediate medical help in case of any irritation in the eyes and throat, nose spasms, or breathing difficulties, say experts

A few hours from now, Noida's Supertech Twin Towers will be razed through a controlled implosion in keeping with the orders of the Supreme Court. Despite the best efforts of Edifice Engineering, the firm in charge of the demolition, a sizable dust cloud is predicted to develop in the vicinity.

It has sparked worries about the potential effects of the demolition on the environment and on the health of locals.

Spiking pollution

Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist, said pollution levels in the area may spike due to the use of dynamite and plastic explosives.

Three kinds of dust—boulder, gravel and fine particulate matter—may create a nuisance for locals for up to five days, he said.

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Within a few seconds of the demolition, water sprinklers should be turned on to control the spread of the dust, he added.

Also read: Noida Twin Tower Demolition | A lesson in demolition vocabulary on D-Day

Experts say that just after the implosion a mushroom cloud of dust will rise and will take some time to subside.

"If we look at previous demolitions, like Maradu Apartments in Kochi, when I spoke to locals I found that the cloud of dust was there for more than a week. However, the duration is heavily dependent on the weather," he added.

Twin towers graphic

Mahesh Palawat, a meteorologist, said, "...the wind will be blowing across Noida towards Uttar Pradesh (UP). So though Delhi-NCR may avoid some of the debris that spreads, low pressure in the area on Monday may lead to the wind flowing westwards, blowing the debris back towards Delhi-NCR."

Palawat added that weather forecasts suggest rainfall in the areas of Delhi NCR, west UP, and Haryana. A moderate to heavy shower will help wash the air of the suspended particulate pollutants.

Also read: Noida Twin Tower Demolition | Explosives to be used, damage to surroundings and other questions answered

Enzo Campetella, a senior meteorologist based in Madrid, told Moneycontrol that he had analysed the wind direction in the area.

“Most of the debris is going to drift southeast. Subsequently, the wind could rotate west (and hit Delhi). The wind speed is expected to be between 5-20 kmph,” he said.

"The dispersion model says that the debris will stay close to the ground, below 300 metres. So the most exposed would be those to the southeast and east of the demolished building. Of course, in the area closest to the building everyone will be affected,’’ he added.

Catch all the live updates from the Supertech Twin Towers demolition here

Asked if the wind speed will be enough to disperse the pollutants, Campetella said it would but it would be “very slow”.

Experts say that NCR residents should definitely worry about a rise in pollution, especially those close to the blast radius, and should adopt precautions like pollution masks and goggles for 2-3 days after the demolition.

"Definitely, the demolition will add to the PM10 particles, which is a matter of concern. There might be other toxic pollutants as well," Dr Pratima Singh, scientist, Centre for the Study of Science, Technology and Policy said.

Environmental lawyer Akash Vashishtha said the dust should settle down in a couple of days but local bodies should monitor the blast radius for at least one or two months. They should monitor air pollution levels and take immediate action to prevent further escalation post-demolition.

Post-demolition, the increased movement of heavy vehicles to carry the debris away will lead to more carbon monoxide emissions in the area, driving up temperatures and pollution levels, said Puneet Bhardwaj, environmental consultant at Northern Ridge Geotech.

Depending on the wind direction, fine dust particles like PM2.5 may also settle on plants in a larger radius, inhibiting their gas exchange. This may have a considerable impact on the environment and affect people with health problems.

Experts warned about noise and vibration levels as well.

"In residential areas, there is a limit of 45-55 dB. But the explosion may go up to 1,000 dB, causing massive noise pollution," Bhardwaj added.

Special care for infants, elderly

Cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon Dr Adarsh Subrahmanyam Koppula said, "Dust clouds have the consistency of talcum powder. This has a mixture of iron oxides and cement, which can cause alkaline burns. Due to the presence of sand, coupled with heat, we may see crystalline silica, which may lead to lung problems like silicosis over a long period of time."

The dust cloud may cause burns, inflammation and irritation in the eyes, lungs and throat—an effect nearly similar to that of pepper spray, he said.

Even after the dust settles, very fine particles suspended in the air can continue to affect the locals over the next few days, experts added.

Also read: Noida Twin Tower Demolition | Similarities and differences between Noida and Maradu blasts

Take precautions

Dr Koppula advises residents to stay away from the demolition radius for at least a couple of days.

"After coming back home, you may find the balconies and even rooms covered in dust. However, do not vacuum or sweep as that will cause the fine particles to rise again," Dr. Koppula stressed.

He said that residents should only wipe their homes and balconies with a wet mop to get rid of the layer of dust on the ground.

"The lungs and tissues of infants are very delicate and they should not come back to the area for the next three days,’’ Dr. Koppula added.

Also read: Ten things you need to know about Supertech twin towers demolition

Dr Ashish Jain, senior Consultant, department of respiratory medicine, Max hospital, suggests that those in the vicinity keep their windows shut for the next few days.

"If it does not rain, one can expect the pollutants to remain in the air for days. Residents should roll away carpets as those are known to attract dust,’’ he said.

Dr Jain, in collaboration with Max hospital, Noida, will be conducting pulmonary tests on 50-60 individuals on August 30. Some tests were also planned for August 27, a day before the demolition.

"This will help us see the effect the demolition has had on people’s health, and the study can be used for future demolitions," he added.

Doctors say that once residents come back to the area and if they experience irritation in the eyes and throat, nose spasms, or any breathing difficulties, they should seek immediate medical help.
Souptik Datta Sub Editor at Moneycontrol
first published: Aug 27, 2022 06:07 pm
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