Acid rain in Kochi? Experts debunk viral claim, say no such scientific test conducted

An official from the regional office of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board said no tests were conducted to confirm acid rain.

ByMuhammed Fazil

Published Mar 16, 2023 | 6:41 PMUpdatedMar 16, 2023 | 6:48 PM

Acid rain in Kochi. Representational Image. (iStock)

Amidst widespread speculations and some local news reports that the precipitation that occurred in parts of Kochi was acid rain, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) confirmed on Thursday, 16 March, that no tests had been conducted by it to confirm whether the rain was acidic.

“We have not conducted any tests until now to confirm that the rain in Kochi was acidic. We, too, have seen reports of it being acid rain. We will be conducting a test when it rains to confirm this,” KSPCB Ernakulam Regional Office’s Chief Environmental Engineer Baburajan PK told South First.

He added that the fire and the subsequent smoke that had emerged from the Brahmapuram waste treatment plant would not necessarily cause acid rain in Kochi.

Also read: Kerala CM announces three-tier probe into Brahmapuram fire

MP seeks scientific probe

Earlier in the day, Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden moved an adjournment notice in Parliament seeking an expert committee to ascertain the nature of the rain.

The MP’s move and the local news reports came in the wake of a social media post by one Rajagopal Kamath, who said in it that the rain that Kochi witnessed on Wednesday was acidic in nature.

He claimed that the rainwater contained traces of sulphuric acid, based on a litmus paper test conducted by him.

However, Baburajan countered that by saying that the exact acid could not be predicted by a mere litmus paper test.

‘Should not confuse people’

Fahad Marzook, a hazard analyst with the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority, told South First that unconfirmed media reports and social media posts could cause panic among the common people, who lack an understanding of acid rain.

“There are no official reports on whether the rain in Kochi was acidic. However, the first rain of the season everywhere always tends to be acidic in nature, especially in big cities,” said Marzook.

The first rain usually brings down a lot of the particulate matter and pollutants with it. They often combine with the rainwater and turn it acidic.

“Caution should be taken only after proper scientific tests, not by the means of amateur tests. The speculations of acid rain in the wake of the Brahmapuram incident can cause panic among people. The news media should be responsible while dealing with sensitive issues like this.” he added.

The Facebook post by Kamath claimed that the rain in Kochi had a pH of about 4.5, and it was because of atmospheric pollution.

Also read: A look at how toxic the air in Kochi really is

Acid rain and litmus test

When precipitation contains acidic elements like sulphuric acid or nitric acid in it, it is called acid rain.

This phenomenon occurs when sulphur and nitrogen oxides present in the atmosphere, primarily because of pollution, react with the falling water.

The litmus test is a specific test conducted to determine the nature of a solution — whether it is acidic or alkaline.

The test is conducted by dipping a special kind of paper in the solution and determining its nature by the change in colour of the paper.

The solutions with pH (potential of hydrogen) less than 7 are considered acidic, and greater than 7 are alkaline.

Blue litmus turns red in acidic solutions, and red litmus turns blue in alkaline solutions.