MUMBAI: When it comes to the environment, what worries Mumbaiites most is air pollution.
Next on their list of concerns is the management of solid waste and sewage, extreme heat and the need for parks and open spaces.
These are issues very high on the priority list of more than 1,200 city households across various socioeconomic brackets surveyed by Urban Futures at the US-based National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.
According to the survey, air pollution was the top concern with 55.3% of families saying it was a worry, followed by waste and sewage management (51.3%), extreme heat (34%) and parks and open spaces (23.9%).
“Many cities worldwide seek to understand local policy priorities among their general population. In a rapidly urbanising city such as Mumbai, multiple issues compete for prominence, ranging from improved management of pollution and extreme weather to energy and other infrastructure services,” said Gufran Beig, IITM.
“The survey explored how differences in local conditions and among citizens within and across Mumbai shape local environmental and infrastructure policy priorities for urban development and risk mitigation that may or may not be aligned with local government action or global environmental sustainability concerns,” Beig said.
The survey comprised asking households their priorities that could improve the city, community, and the well-being of individuals and families both in terms of environmental management issues – air pollution, extreme weather or climate-related hazards such as heat or flooding – and infrastructure development in terms of water, sanitation and waste.
The study found that those suffering from asthma were 1.6 times more likely to rank air pollution among the top three priorities, while those above the age of 40 years were 1.5 times more likely to rank air pollution high on the priority list.
Similarly, those educated beyond college were 1.6 times more likely to rank waste in their top three as compared to those with no or limited literacy, while citizens above the age of 40 years were 1.3 times more likely to rank managing extreme heat in their top three as compared to those below 40 years.
According to environmentalists, in addition to nitrogen oxide emitted owing to vehicular congestion, Mumbaiites have been inhaling dust released during construction and demolition activities across the city that take particulate matter (PM) with a diameter of 10 microns or less – PM10 – as high as 20 times the permissible limit.
Management of solid waste became a huge matter of concern during the first three months of this year with frequent fires at the Deonar dumping ground, which also led to very poor air quality across the city with particulate matter concentration reached eight times the permissible limits.
The study ‘Exploring citizen infrastructure and environmental priorities in Mumbai, India’ was published in Environmental and Science Policy, a peer reviewed international journal.