Electronic waste, rubber, plastic and optical fibre cables are being illegally burnt on the Sion-Mahim Link Road, an inspection by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has said, confirming complaints from locals that hazardous waste is being burnt releasing toxins into the air.
Experts say burning of such waste releases pollutants that do not disperse easily during winter. MPCB carried out the inspection last week and subsequently wrote to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Saturday, asking them to take stringent action against the unidentified persons burning the waste. The inspection was a result of repeated complaints by residents of Dharavi and Mahim.
Although both MPCB and BMC have been aware of the problem of industrial waste being burnt on the Sion-Mahim Link Road, none of them have been able to put a stop to the practice citing lack of manpower and jurisdiction issues.
“We have received many complaints from the residents regarding health issues, but it is the BMC’s job to implement municipal solid waste rules and reign in elements who are callously burning polluting matter,” said AS Nandawate, sub-regional officer, MPCB.
Officials from the environment department of G-north ward, BMC, said lack of manpower, and possible threat to the health of employees were the reasons for inaction. “BMC’s clean-up marshals man the area during the day, and we regularly penalise people caught burning waste. But we don’t have enough manpower to check the burning in the night. Also, our staff is apprehensive about health issues they may face due to exposure to burnt waste,” said Suresh Patil, assistant engineer, environment department, G-north ward.
Waste burning, coupled with low temperatures, is a major cause of haze formation, with a gray layer covering the city’s skyline every morning. In February, the MPCB’s monitoring station at Sion recorded a highest respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) level of 342-microgram/metre cube (ug/m3) and at Bandra, it was 261 ug/m3, showing dangerous levels of pollution. The safe limit for RSPM is 100ug/m3.