Chennai airport braces for Bhogi smog, fears disruption

Bonfires lit by residents as part of the Pongal festival in the presence of high humidity, low temperature and moisture may cause smog which disrupts visibility.

Published: 12th January 2019 05:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th January 2019 05:40 AM   |  A+A-

An aircraft prepares for take-off from the Chennai International Airport, amid dense fog | J Manoharan

Express News Service

CHENNAI: AS morning visibility is already poor due to dense fog, Chennai airport authorities have requested inbound airlines to be prepared to reschedule early morning flights on Bhogi day (January 14) as smog is likely to disrupt flight operations. Malaysian airlines AirAsia has already rescheduled one of its flights. 

Bonfires lit by residents as part of the Pongal festival in the presence of high humidity, low temperature and moisture may cause smog which disrupts visibility. Last year, more than 16 flights including nine international ones had to be diverted to Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Coimbatore. Further, 42 flights were delayed and 40 more cancelled due to smog reducing the visibility to under 50 metres. 

G Chandramouli, Director, Chennai International Airport, told Express this year’s weather is far worse. “We have conducted a meeting with inbound airlines and apprised them about the likelihood of smog disrupting flight operations. They have been sensitised to inform passengers about flight status and rescheduling. On our part, alerts will be put out on AirSewa and Chennai airport app on a dynamic basis.”
The official said letters had been written to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and city Police Commissioner to carry out awareness and patrolling in areas surrounding airport to restrain people from holding bonfires. 

It’s a practice among people to light bonfire with logs of wood, cow-dung cakes, other solid-fuels and old wooden furniture. However, some burn old tyres, tubes, plastic materials, old mates, broomstick, garbage and a few other harmful materials, which release harmful pollutants that cause smog and makes breathing difficult. 

Chandramouli said the pollution control board had been requested to form special teams to create awareness in which airport officials will also take part. “We can not directly go and play with the sentiments of people and our CISF security cannot move out.”

On Friday, the Chennai airport general manager had a meeting with the TNPCB authorities on initiating pro-active measures. There are about 80 flights, both international and domestic combined, which use the Chennai airport till 10 in the morning and are vulnerable, if smog hits the city. 
Awareness campaign launched

Meanwhile, TNPCB Chairman Shambu Kallolikar has flagged off awareness vehicles. A total of 15 autorickshaws have been engaged to campaign in 15 corporation zones in Chennai through public address system, placards and  pamphlets.

Pollution watch
As per TNPCB data, all 15 corporation zonal areas are measuring PM10 levels. These are inhalable particles, with diameters less than 10 micrometers 

Valasarvakkam has recorded highest PM10 value of 386 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) followed by Thiru.Vi.Ka. Nagar (353), Ambattur (343) and Kodambakkam (339) 

The least pollution zone was Meenambakkam that recorded 135. The prescribed standard value for PM10 is 100 

Meanwhile, the real time air quality monitoring stations run by CPCB — which measure PM2.5, a key pollutant — in Manali, Alandur and IIT Madras reveal that PM2.5 value has crossed 1,000 µg/m3 in Manali between 6 am to 10.30 am. In IIT Madras, it recorded 799 and Alandur 318 last year 

TNPCB officials have attributed the increase in pollution levels to high humidity, low temperature and low wind speed. There was no dispersal and dilution of pollutant which is the reason for the higher values of particulate matter. Same conditions are prevailing this year

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