Toxic smoke from vehicles took pollution levels to four times the safe limit at the city’s most congested traffic junctions, Andheri and Wadala, in the past year. These junctions also saw an 80% rise in particulate pollution levels from 2013 to 2016. The ever-rising number of vehicles, combined with dust from construction is choking the city, and the traffic junctions are hit worst.
According to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) Environment Status Report (ESR), 2015-16, levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) — small pollutant particles that can easily enter the respiratory system — were as high as 284 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3) and 244 µg/m3 over the past year at Wadala and Andheri, respectively. The safe limit is 60 µg/m3. What’s worse? The same locations recorded PM2.5 levels well below that limit in 2013, at 50µg/m3 (Wadala) and 46µg/m 3 (Andheri).
Even levels of PM10 – slightly larger, coarser pollutant particles — were twice the permissible standards at these two traffic junctions. As against safety levels of 100µg/m3, Andheri recorded 194 µg/m3, while 211 µg/m3 was recorded at Wadala.
The city’s first well-planned business district Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) is the most polluted traffic hotspot, according to the report, with levels more than twice the safe limit.
“On most days, the air quality fell under ‘moderate’ to ‘poor’ levels at these three locations, exceeding the national air quality standards,” said Neha Parkhi, senior programme manager, SAFAR. “While BKC has a major traffic junction where vehicular pollutants get trapped in the air, the high pollution at Wadala was because of pollutants emitted from the movement of freight vehicles along the Eastern Express Highway. However, for Andheri, we observed a mix of pollution from construction, choked traffic junctions and open burning at various areas.”
While air quality at Andheri and Wadala was monitored at various traffic junctions using mobile air quality monitoring vans, SAFAR’s air monitoring unit at BKC calculates real-time pollution readings for the area. “Wadala traffic junctions also have a lot of slum settlements along busy traffic spots where open burning adds to pollution problems,” said Nivedita Khanolkar, resident of Wadala.
“As opposed to the eastern freeway that observes smooth flow in traffic, the Western Express Highway, especially close to Andheri and BKC has been observing a lot of traffic snarls. This and construction activities in the area has led to a rise in pollution,” said KS Hosalikar, deputy director general, western region, India Meteorological Department.