Guwahati, Feb 8 (PTI) Assam’s largest city Guwahati was engulfed by a thick blanket of dust as the Air Quality Index (AQI) turned ‘poor’ on Wednesday, with a prolonged dry spell and innumerable construction work aggravating the situation.
     Doctors warned of respiratory problems if the city-dwellers are exposed to such conditions for a longer period of time and advised the people to use face masks whenever stepping outdoors.
     As per data on the National Air Quality Index of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the air quality was at 245 PM 2.5 or above at all four measuring stations at different ends of the city.
     The AQI at Panbazar and Railway Colony, both within the main city area, was at 245 and 264 at 6 PM.
     It was similarly of poor category at the airport (271) and IIT-Guwahati campus (250), which are situated outside the main city limits.
     Air quality above 200 is categorised as ‘poor’ and it causes breathing discomfort to most people on prolonged exposure, as per the CPCB.
     Officials at the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) said a major cause for the dust storm-like situation in the city was lack of rainfall.
     “It has been over three months since it last rained in Guwahati. Winter rains are a normal phenomenon, but it didn’t happen this year in the city. There has, however, been rainfall in other parts of the state during the period,” he said.
     “With a number of construction work underway, the air quality is further compromised,” the official said.
     The sand blown into the city from the Brahmaputra which flows alongside Guwahati also contributes to the dust storm-like situation, the PCBA official maintained.
     Exposure to such dust and other particles in the air can cause severe respiratory problems, warned Dr Munmi Borah, a medical practitioner in the city.
     “We advise the patients to cover their faces while going outdoors as far as possible. People with existing respiratory problems, like asthma, are especially advised against exposure to such conditions,” she added.
     Dr Borah said that besides respiratory diseases, eye infections and skin allergies are also common in people under such circumstances.
     “The ongoing road and building construction work have contributed a lot to air pollution. It has also resulted in increased footfall in the hospitals for exacerbation of respiratory illness such as Asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),” the doctor added.

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