A fire blazed at Deonar, Mumbai’s biggest landfill, for a fourth consecutive day as local residents protested authorities’ failure to check the billows of toxic smoke that choked them and sent air quality plunging on Tuesday.
According to the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the air quality index (AQI) – a pollution indicator - at its Chembur station was 319 on Tuesday morning, falling under the ‘very poor’ category.
On Monday, AQI levels were at 301. SAFAR estimated AQI levels to continue under the ‘very poor’ category at 316.
The AQI for Mumbai overall was only marginally better, categorised as ‘poor’. The average for SAFAR’s 10 pollution measuring stations, including Chembur, gave a AQI reading of 210 on Tuesday morning. The index is expected to increase to 215 in the next 24 hours.
This the second instance of a major fire at the dump in the last two months. In January-February, a week-long blaze had taken Mumbai’s air quality to hazardous levels.
On Tuesday morning, residents of Chembur, Vashi and Wadala gathered at Azad Maidan, near the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s headquarters, to protest against its failure to control the fire at Deonar.
Citizens held banners that read ‘Please respect article 21 - allow us to breathe clean air’ and wore black clothes and pollution masks as a sign of protest.
“Our only demand is shut this 90-year-old dumping ground once and for all. The civic body needs to give us a clear cut timeline as to when the measures to control the fire will be completed and when the dumping ground will be shut,” said Vandana Tripathi, a Chembur resident.
The protestors said that they have written letters to the state chief minister regarding the pollution problem. “We have also garnered more than 6,000 signatures on our online petition to shut the dumping ground. The chief minister made several promises when he met us but not one has been met with,” said Indresh Pradhan, a Chembur resident.
“There are no scientific methods being utilised or any alternate mechanism to process garbage by the civic body at this site. We have been breathing this polluted air for too long now and we are fed up.”
Smita Dighe, a resident of Govandi pointed children and senior citizens are suffering more from the pollution.
“Children are either not being sent to school or are forced to stay indoors while senior citizens have stopped going for morning or evening walks. The BMC seems to be pushing residents to leave the city.”
The BMC said it controlled the fire from spreading to new areas but reports emerged of eight isolated fires across the dump.
“The fire is now under control and we are carrying out filling operations to reduce the smoke,” said an official from the solid waste management department of the civic body.
Rais Shaikh, a Samajwadi Party corporator who represents areas near the dump, said, “The situation in Deonar remains precarious. The whole area is engulfed with smoke. We reject municipal commissioner’s statements to resolve the issue. We demand he invokes disaster act and take steps to pull in all additional resources.”
Shaikh added if the situation didn’t improve, party workers will block entry for garbage vehicles to the dumping ground from next week.