As the fire at Deonar landfill released thick smoke for the fourth consecutive day, air quality in residential areas around the dump worsened.
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, which improved marginally to 318 by evening, 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 315.
The AQI for Mumbai overall was only marginally better, categorised as ‘poor’. The average for SAFAR’s 10 pollution measuring stations, including Chembur, gave AQI reading of 210 on Tuesday morning that worsened by the evening to 222. The index is expected to stay at 222 over the next 24 hours.
Researchers at SAFAR said that owing to a drop in wind speed, air quality had deteriorated marginally in Mumbai and drastically at Chembur. “The winds were calm on Tuesday that forced pollutants released from the Deonar dumping ground fire to suspend closer to the earth’s surface, which is why Chembur recorded a higher AQI as compared to previous days,” said Gufran Beig, project director, SAFAR.
For the last four days, residents of suburbs around the dump have been suffering the consequences of the fire. 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.
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. The civic body needs to give us a deadline as to when the dumping ground will be shut,” said Vandana Tripathi, a Chembur resident.
“We have got more than 6,000 signatures for our online petition to shut the dumping ground. The chief minister made several promises when he met us, but not one has been fulfilled,” said Indresh Pradhan, a Chembur resident. Smita Dighe, a resident of Govandi, said, “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.”
Rais Shaikh, the corporator who represents Deonar, said, “We demand the disaster act be invoked and additional steps be taken to improve the situation.”