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Poor Air Quality in Mumbai

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November 04, 2023

Why in news?

Mumbai's air quality has deteriorated with the Air Quality Index (AQI) being above 200 (poor).

What is the condition of air pollution in Mumbai?

  • Sources- Vehicular emissions, industrial activities, construction dust, waste burning, and biomass burning.
  • Open waste burning is the top pollution source identified by the Mumbai Air Pollution Mitigation Plan.
  • Status - The AQI Index indicates that the air pollution level in Mumbai is unhealthy.
  • Particulate matter level raised 7 times above the recommended level of World Health Organisation (WHO).

mumbai pollution

Why air quality is deteriorating in Mumbai?

  • Climate change- Increased warming in Middle East and Arabian Sea affects the wind patterns and the temperature, humidity, and rainfall over Mumbai and northwest India in all seasons.
  • Increase in pre-monsoon heat waves and heavy rain spells during the summer monsoon in addition to the October heat and pollution caused the poor air quality in Mumbai.
  • Prolonged La Nina- La Nina is a condition in which the sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean become cooler than normal.
  • 2022 was part of the longest and strongest La Nina events on record that impacted the wind pattern of the city.
  • Temperature inversion- The cooling of surface air and warming of upper air create a stable vertical variation in air temperature, which inhibits the mixing of air, making the air quality worse.
  • Lack of civic agencies support- There was no biomethanation plants to process the waste and lack of segregation of wastes in slum clusters and non-gated societies contributed to the poor air quality.
  • Outdated regulations- There was no significant increase in inspections and penalties for waste burning and the city’s regulations remain unaltered for 17 years.
  • Coastal location- Mumbai was considered largely immune to the issue of air pollution, and the associated problems of haze and smog due to its location near the coast.
  • But the last 2 years have shown that this geographical advantage no longer offers reliable protection.

What are the consequences of poor air quality?

  • Health impact- It can cause respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and premature death. It can also affect the mental health and cognitive abilities of people. 
  • Children- High prevalence of particulate matter 2.5 is associated with low birth weight, anaemia, and acute respiratory infections among children.
  • Pregnancy outcomes- High levels of air pollution leads to low birth weight (LBW), stillbirth, foetal mortality, premature birth, and birth defects.

Mumbai has witnessed a gradual rise in lung cancer fatalities from 621 in 2009 to 923 in 2021, reflecting a 48.6% increase over 12 years.

What measures were implemented for curbing Mumbai air pollution?

  • The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued a set of guidelines for the mitigation of air pollution in Mumbai and gave builders and contractors 1 month to acquire sprinklers and fogging machines at construction sites.
  • The BMC has imposed a penalty of Rs 20,000 on vehicles like trucks found without proper tonneau covering, having dirty tyres, and spreading dust while carrying construction debris.
  • Recycled water or water from local sources like lakes, ponds, wells and borewells is to be used for road washing.
  • The BMC is also in the process of setting up a command and control centre to collect data using sensor-based air quality index monitoring devices.
  • Many buses will be fitted with vehicle-mounted filters for removal of impurities from dust and other particles.
  • The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has issued notices to major companies in Mumbai to reduce production by 50% to control rising air pollution.

What lies ahead?

  • The need of the hour is decentralised waste management and bio-methanation plants to process the wastes.
  • Mumbai also needs a holistic waste management policy and strict penalties to tackle the pollution problem.
  • Long term strategies such as implementing emission standards, promoting public transport, enhancing green cover would be the potential solution.

 Quick Facts

System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR)

  • A dedicated Air Quality Information Service for Indian Metropolitan Cites to make India self-sufficient in providing frontier research based scientific accredited robust Air Quality Forecasting system.
  • Launched by- Ministry of Earth Sciences
  • Implementation- Indian Institute of Tropical Metrology, Pune and Indian Meteorological Department.
  • Aim- To provide location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
  • Coverage- Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • AQI is a number used to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecasted to become.

Air Quality Index

 

References

  1. Indian Express- Mumbai is witnessing poor air quality
  2. The Hindu- October heat pollution
  3. SAFAR- About SAFAR
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