The issue of Global Warming is growing in importance exponentially, and all the countries of the world are called to contribute to a devastating global crisis. One of the causes of Climate Change is urban pollution, the consequences of which are already visible in the increasing number of respiratory diseases, especially in dense urban areas. The main question is how each of us could contribute to improving our life quality and the health of our planet. Every person should have the right and the duty to face this issue for the sake of a better world. This article aims at outlining how architecture and urbanism can promote a more sustainable life and reduce pollution consequences, analysing a case study of Ghaziabad, the second most polluted city on Earth of 2020.
Pollution in Ghaziabad
Ghaziabad is an Indian city with a population of 2,358,525 people. It is also known as the “Gateway of Uttar Pradesh” since it is situated close to Delhi on the main route to Uttar Pradesh. It has recently been nominated as the second fastest-growing city in the world and is mainly an industrial city, densely connected through railways and roads.
In 2020, Ghaziabad was the second most polluted city after the Chinese Hotan in Xinjiang province, as demonstrated in the British company HouseFresh report. The alarming data is the average AQI (Air Quality Index) of PM2.5, the suspended particulate matter with dimensions less than 2.5 µm, one of the worst air pollutants. Its limit is 25 µg/m3 per year, whereas in Ghaziabad, it was 106 µg/m3 at the time of the report. The causes of urban pollution can be different. In the case of Ghaziabad, the poor quality of air is mainly due to vehicles, but also to industrial emissions and the dust coming from construction waste and unpaved roads. Another problem to exacerbate the situation is the weather: wind, in particular, would help to let the city “breathe”, since medium-high speed wind helps not to concentrate the pollutants in a unique area and dilutes the polluted air with fresh air. On the contrary, the low-speed wind does not allow air exchange, worsening the city’s conditions.
In general, there are several possible attempts to improve air quality through architectural or urban strategies. The city can be seen as a living organism: thus, it needs to breathe. Ventilation is fundamental because it allows an exchange of pollutants and fresh air, ensuring the mitigation of poor-quality air. In this regard, it is the task of urbanists and architects to plan the city allowing ventilation corridors that can help even in those situations in which climate conditions are not optimal.
Another theme favouring a better life quality for citizens and air quality is the need for greenery and trees. Vegetation contributes, in fact, to the absorption of greenhouse gases. The most effective are evergreen plants because they carry on the photosynthesis process also during winter and have a densely complex foliage structure. Ivy is helpful as well since it is capable of absorbing particulate matter, especially PM2.5.
Speaking of vegetation, we do not only refer to boulevards and park greenery but also vertical greenery. Green facades do not only constitute an aesthetic choice, but they can contribute to reducing pollution and improving inhabitants life quality. Another solution for the absorption of pollution particles is the use of tiles coated with superfine titanium dioxide: “a pollution-fighting technology that is activated by ambient daylight, the tiles neutralize air contaminants when situated near traffic or other dirty conditions” (Chousein, 2013). These tiles are easily installed on building facades.
Ghaziabad Action Plan
Ghaziabad action plan for the reduction of pollution aims at controlling all those industrial and urban activities that can decrease the Air Quality Index, providing short- to long-term solutions. First of all, vehicle emissions should be controlled: in this regard, the plan foresees in a short-term perspective, an increase of awareness among the population, as well as a reduction of the traffic and promotion of more sustainable vehicles. From a long-term perspective, the aim is to avoid congestion inside the city. A solution, for example, is building new roads outside the urban centre, and to strengthen the use of public transport, shifting towards the electric system.
Another major problem concerns industrial emissions: the main purpose is to convert the industrial plants into more sustainable and ecological systems, as well as constantly monitoring the emission, to have a precise overview of which factories majorly affect the air quality. An issue to face, together with industrial emission, is the control of the substances released with solid waste burning. In this case, the plan attempts at avoiding the open burning of biomass, crop residue and garbage, promoting a regular check of municipal solid wastes and the use of fire extinguishers in case of necessity.
In conclusion, the causes of poor air quality in an urban environment are several. Especially in developing countries such as India, which cause an emission rate among the highest in the world, immediate action is urgent. Although it is impossible to suddenly stop every type of pollution emission, it is necessary to monitor each polluting activity and to find alternative solutions, more environmentally sustainable. Although the whole world is called to take part in this transition, it is even more crucial in a city such as Ghaziabad, where the consequences of pollution are already evident in the bad quality of life of its citizens.
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