Mumbai chokes with pollution levels on rise

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 31, 2016 00:35 IST
SAFAR, which measures pollution levels at 10 locations across the city, predicted ‘very poor’ air quality levels for Sunday, too, with an AQI of 311. (Vijayanand Gupta/HT photo)

Air pollution in the city continued to choke Mumbaiites, with the air quality index (AQI) falling in the ‘very poor’ category for the second consecutive day on Saturday. While weather conditions were the primary reason for heavy smog across the city, the smoke emitting from the fire at the Deonar dumping yard made matters worse, especially in the eastern suburbs.

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The AQI — pollution measuring indicator — was at 318 during the day and 306 in the evening. An AQI of 300 and above falls under the ‘very poor’ category. On Friday, Mumbai had recorded the highest pollution levels — AQI of 325 during the day and 341 in the evening — since the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) began monitoring air quality in June last year.

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SAFAR, which measures pollution levels at 10 locations across the city, predicted ‘very poor’ air quality levels for Sunday, too, with an AQI of 311.

Meanwhile, even as the Mumbai fire brigade tried to control the fire at Deonar dumping ground, CM Devendra Fadnavis asked the Mumbai police commissioner to probe the possibility of sabotage. The civic body has filed an FIR against the contractor responsible for disposal of waste at the dumping ground. “BMC Commissioner informs that smoke at Deonar is substantially under control. I’ve asked CP, Mumbai to enquire into possibility of sabotage,” Fadnavis tweeted on Saturday evening.

The fire at the dumping ground has led to an increase in pollution levels in areas such as Govandi, Shivaji Nagar, Chembur, Tilak Nagar, Ghatkopar, and Kurla, among others. Several people living in these areas have complained of breathing problems and respiratory ailments because of the smoke. Even schools in the vicinity of the dumping ground stayed shut on Saturday.

According to officials from SAFAR, the ‘very poor’ air quality levels on Saturday were majorly owing to the fire at Deonar. “We observed that all locations around the landfill recorded high pollution levels, but all other locations in the city observed an improved air quality than Friday,” said Neha S Parkhi, senior programme manager, SAFAR.

“The main reason for high pollution levels is the host of gaseous pollutants released from the dumping ground, responsible for bringing down Mumbai’s air quality.”

On Saturday, Malad was the most polluted during the day with an AQI of 432, which falls in the ‘severe’ category. During the evening, Chembur was the most polluted with an AQI of 342, followed by Andheri, Navi Mumbai and Mazgaon at 338, 339 and 322, respectively.

Parkhi said there had been an improvement in meteorological conditions that resulted in central and southern parts of the city recording better air quality as compared to the eastern suburbs.

The high level of pollution in the past week has also resulted in many people rushing to hospitals with various ailments. Dr Sandeep Rane, cardiologist at Rane Heart Hospital at Chembur (West), told HT there had been a sudden rise in the number of admissions at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with regard to heart and lung related ailments in the past two days. “I have advised people to wear pollution masks and remain indoors. It is also an established fact that smoke can cause heart problems and the civic body needs to understand this before the situation goes out of hand,” he said.

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