Kulhudhuffushi sees reduction in air quality to dangerous levels

A map showcasing the reduction of air quality in Kulhudhuffushi City.

Kulhudhuffushi City is presently experiencing a reduction in air quality to dangerous levels as a result of dust and smoke carried to Maldives area from the Himalayan foothills across the Bay of Bengal due to the shift in seasonal winds.

An official from Maldives Metrological Service (Met Office) said that Maldivian regions are expected to experience a reduction in the quality of air, and poor visibility starting from December till March; a common occurrence as the two monsoons converge.

The official detailed this was a result of the shift in seasonal winds from west to east at the end of the south-west monsoon (wet season) and on the onset of north-east monsoon (dry season) which brings in dust and smoke from the Himalayan foothills across the Bay of Bengal to Maldives – causing a ‘haze’.

As per the official, the poorest air quality in Kulhudhuffushi was recorded on last Friday, which was at dangerous levels.

“The air quality is shown to be a bit better at present than that day. Nevertheless, the air quality at Kulhudhuffushi is still lower than usual,” the official had said.

The reduction of air quality in Kulhudhuffushi City.

In a tweet regarding the poor air quality at Kulhudhuffushi, Dr. Mohamed Ali cautioned residents of the island to take precautions over potential health risks by decreasing hours spend outdoors. He also advised wearing masks when going outdoors, using air purifiers indoors and adhering to instructions from the Environment Ministry.

Male’ area also saw a reduction in the quality of air, and poor visibility resulting from a haze last week.

Unlike fog or mist despite similar appearances – haze is a phenomenon where dry particles of dust, salt, aerosols, or photochemical smog that are so small that they cannot be felt or seen individually with the naked eye, but the aggregate reduces horizontal visibility and gives the atmosphere an opalescent appearance is suspended in the atmosphere.

When inquired whether the haze currently experienced in the Maldives poses any health risks – HPA told Sun that increase in the levels of the dry particles known as ‘PM2.5’ will pose greater health risks.

They noted the increased vulnerability of sensitive individuals – naming them as infants, young children, elderly, expectant mothers, people with heart or lung conditions and people with allergies.

HPA noted that the air quality in the Maldives can also be identified through Environment Ministry’s link or through the renowned mobile application ‘IQAIR Visual’. The application can be used to identify the rates of ‘PM2.5’ in the atmosphere.

The colored categories in the application can be used as a guide to identify the level of health risks to different groups of people.

Identification of the levels of 'PM2.5' in the air. (Photo/HPA)

These categories are green, yellow, orange, red, a bright purple and a dark purple. Green represents good air quality which poses little or no risk. Yellow represents moderate air quality, for which sensitive individuals have been advised to avoid outdoor activity as they may experience respiratory system. Orange represents air quality unhealthy for sensitive groups which recommends that they are at risk to experience irritation and respiratory problems. Red represents unhealthy – which increases the likelihood of adverse effects and aggravation to the heart and lunge among general public. Bright purple represents very unhealthy – due to which general public will noticeably be affected, whereas sensitive groups must entirely restrict outdoor activities. Dark purple represents hazardous – meaning general public is at high risk of experiencing strong irritations and adverse health activities, therewith, must avoid outdoor activities.

Maldives usually experiences hazes from December to March. The island nation was affected by haze at the end of last year as well.