Mumbai recorded the worst pollution levels on Sunday, the first day of the year, since the Deonar fire in January, 2016. Researchers attributed the spike in pollution to the use of firecrackers on New Year’s night.
Pollution levels shot up to dangerously high levels as the air quality index (AQI) – pollutant measuring indicator — was recorded at 323, falling under the ‘very poor’ category, said officials from the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).
An AQI of 315 (very poor), has been predicted for Monday, which is as high as pollution levels recorded a day after Diwali.
Pollution levels on Sunday were marginally close to that of Delhi as the national capital recorded an AQI of 338 (very poor).
Pune, on the other hand, recorded AQI levels within the ‘moderate’ category at 187.
On Friday, SAFAR had predicted AQI levels to be at the borderline of the ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ category for Sunday at 300.
“Everyone is advised to avoid prolonged or heavy outdoor activity and everyone is advised to wear a mask and drink plenty of water,” read the health advisory from SAFAR. “Air quality in Mumbai may cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Everyone may experience more or serious health effects. You are advised to ensure minimum exposure to pollution.”
An AQI level between 201 and 300 is poor and 301-400 is ‘very poor’.
The last time the city recorded such high pollution was on January 29, 2016, with AQI levels at 341 (very poor) and January 31 at 333 (very poor), owing to the Deonar dumping ground fire, when the release of methane gas from untreated waste choked the city for almost a month.
SAFAR officials said there was a drop in visibility on Sunday morning owing to the pollution. “The city is currently experiencing cool conditions owing to low temperatures. There is hardly any moisture or wind speed, which is making the weather dry and stagnant,” said Gufran Beig, project director, SAFAR. “The additional source of firecrackers intensified pollution levels further, creating a thick layer of smoke close to the earth’s surface. Since there is not much wind speed, the pollutants are not being dispersed fast.”
Seven of 10 locations in Mumbai recorded ‘very poor’ air with Mazgaon being the most polluted location on Sunday, with an AQI of 370 (very poor), followed by Andheri at 343, Bandra Kurla Complex at 332 and Malad at 322. The cleanest air was recorded at Worli with an AQI of 277 (poor).
Meanwhile, night temperatures in the suburbs was 16.5 degrees Celsius, almost 2 degrees Celsius below normal, while south Mumbai recorded a minimum temperature closer to normal levels.