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Unclear skies ahead?

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The rise in pollution levels has become a major influencing factor for home-buying, as health-conscious people are unwilling to migrate to areas that are detrimental to their health.

You wake up five minutes before your early morning alarm and get into your workout gear with much enthusiasm. But as soon as you open the front door of your home, you are engulfed with a thick smog and your spirits are further dampened when you begin to feel that evident irritation in your throat. Your eyes water as you try to jog on your usual route and you finally get frustrated and head back home, vowing to move out of this toxic city. Well, you are not the only one as 70 percent of Indians who live in cities find themselves co-existing in pollution-driven environments. According to a study published by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and the Health Effects Institute, India records the highest air pollution of the worst kind.

As a result, awareness of the environment has increased and the location of a home is an aspect that home-buyers consider as a major influence.

The liveability quotient for the entire family due to rising pollution levels is taken into consideration, especially among people who either live with senior citizens or children. They choose not to risk buying in areas where the air quality is especially bad.

Another report, presented by Yale and Columbia Universities in Davos in January 2018, says that India features in the bottom five countries that have taken positive steps vis-a-vis policies to curb pollution in their countries. India ranked 177 among 180 countries in the same criteria.

These factors have been influencing the purchasing patterns of real estate in cities. Ajit Navalkar (68), moved out of the western suburbs of Mumbai to a much quieter space in Neral on the outskirts of the city after his health took a hit. “Five years ago, I developed heart problems. As a result, I had difficulty in breathing. It was very painful as the feeling is ten times the discomfort you feel when you climb at high altitude,” he says.

The family including his wife and two daughters, moved to Neral after investing in a second home. “After moving to our new home, my health has certainly seen an improvement, but it is quite a drive from my wife’s workplace. Since my wife is retiring soon, we figured she could manage commute for a few more years,” he adds.

The national capital was recently caught in the eye of the storm with the city witnessing smog induced by low temperatures and high particulate matter caused by pollution in November 2017. Air quality was hit hard, so much so that the levels reached were said to be 30 times higher than what is considered safe by World Health Organisation (WHO).

Anukriti Bahuguna (27), a producer based out of Noida, was one of the many who witnessed the effects of air pollution first-hand. “It was extremely difficult to breathe. The air caused problems for both, my family and I,” she says, adding that her family made the most out of air purifiers. “Purifiers are always running inside the house, but we did not have much of a choice when we stepped out. Our eyes would constantly water due to the smog,” she says. In fact, in November 2017, Costa Rican ambassador to India Mariela Cruz Alvarez moved from Delhi to Bengaluru as result of the smog and made the announcement on her blog.

Lucknow, one of the country’s rising tier-II cities, recently saw one of the worst cases of smog. A resident of Lucknow for 27 years, Asadullah says that when his family settled in the city almost 100 years ago, no one ever thought air quality would be a problem. “My family and I have not considered moving yet,” he says, adding that, “However, it has become extremely difficult to live in the city. During winter, many residents kept their kids indoors and would wear masks when venturing out.”

The developer community too is taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint too. NAREDCO Vice-President and Private Developer, Ashok Mohanani, says, “With the recent case of poor air quality, it has been observed that after Delhi, Mumbai and Pune too are facing a drastic drop in air quality. Construction sites generally contribute to pollution through dust emission. Recently, the Supreme Court passed a law against errant developers imposing a fine of approximately Rs 50,000 per day for dust pollution. Following this, measures are being taken by developers to avoid such situations.” He adds that adequate measures are being adopted to ensure pollution is reduced. “Placing physical barriers at construction sites has proven to lower dust emissions, especially when the placement of barriers is aligned with wind currents. Also, spraying water prevents dust emissions and confines airborne dust, a cost-effective method of lowering pollution,” he adds.

Arpika Bhosale, Times Property, The Times of India, Bengaluru

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