The city is paying a heavy health price for its poor air quality levels.
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Worli, studied 10 locations for their air quality and medical spending, and found Maravali, Deonar and Andheri have concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM10 (fine particulate matter of size 10 microns or less that can be inhaled into the respiratory tract) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) well beyond safe limits. These localities are also the areas where there were maximum complaints of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and breathlessness.
The highest annual concentrations of SO2, NO2 and PM were found at Maravali at 20 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), 67μg/m3 and 683μg/m3 respectively, against the annual average permissible limits of 60 μg/m3 , 60μg/m3 and 140μg/m3 respectively. The lowest annual concentrations of SO2, NO2 and SPM were 4μg/m3, 13μg/m3 and 152μg/m3 at Worli, Parel and Kalbadevi respectively. The study also found that Khar and Bhandup were exposed to high NO2 and PM10 levels.
“Health should be the first level of correlating attribute in each of the pollution parameters. Normally, air quality that primarily damages human health is taken lightly compared to water,” said Rakesh Kumar, chief scientist, NEERI, Mumbai. “Hence if we know the health costs, one can justify why air quality should be maintained and should be given priority in its clean up.”
Researchers estimated the cost of health impact by taking the average treatment cost for each disease by looking at spending in both public and private healthcare facilities. Chembur resident Rajkumar Sharma is not surprised that locals from his area and Deonar spend among the maximum on health because of poor air quality. “Chembur is sandwiched between industries and the Deonar dumping ground, and increasing number of residents are suffering from respiratory ailments. Incineration of biomedical waste is one of the biggest culprits, apart from toxic gases from garbage and particulate matter that gets suspended when waste also dries,” said Sharma.
“Andheri witnessed rapid construction of the Mumbai Metro that also worsened air quality due to movement of construction material,” said Deepak Shah, an engineer and resident of Chakala. “While the Mumbai Metro has decongested the roads, there’s no change in peak-hour road traffic.”