Pollution levels still high in Mumbai, but you can expect some relief

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 02, 2016 01:40 IST
For the fifth day in a row, the fire at the dumping ground in Deonar continued to rage. (Prashant Waydande)

Pollution levels in the city continued to be in the ‘very poor’ category for the fourth consecutive day on Monday, although the air quality was slightly better than Sunday.

The air quality index (AQI) — pollution measuring indicator –– was 308 at 9.30am on Monday and it decreased to 304 by evening.

The index was 333 on Sunday, 318 on Saturday and 345 on Friday, the highest since the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) began monitoring air quality in June last year. SAFAR predicted air quality to slightly improve on Tuesday, with the AQI of 295, which falls in the ‘poor’ category.

While Mumbai’s AQI continued to be at high levels, Delhi recorded an AQI of 208 (poor) on Monday morning. It improved to 169 (moderate) in the evening owing to a sharp increase in wind speed that dispersed pollutants, said researchers from SAFAR.

While weather conditions have been the primary reason for heavy smog across the city, the smoke emitting from the fire at the Deonar dumping yard has made matters worse, especially in the eastern suburbs. Fire engines have brought the blaze under control, but small fires at isolated pockets continued even on Monday. “Fire tenders are still at the spot trying to prevent the smaller fires from spreading,” said an official from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) solid waste management division.

Meanwhile, on Monday, seven out of the 10 locations where SAFAR monitors and forecasts air quality in Mumbai had ‘very poor’ levels. While Chembur continued to be the most polluted for the fourth day in a row with an AQI of 363, Andheri recorded 355, and Malad and Mazgaon recorded 330.

“The pollution problem in Mumbai is getting better after the additional source from the fire at Deonar was controlled. Meteorological conditions such as high humidity and low temperatures had further aggravated the pollution problem. Over the next 24 to 48 hours, we expect Mumbai’s air quality to fall under the ‘poor’ category as opposed to the current ‘very poor’ levels,” said Gufran Beig, project director, SAFAR.

Researchers from SAFAR also pointed out that the concentration of PM10 – particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less – were much higher than PM2.5 — diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less — across Mumbai on Monday. Mumbai recorded an AQI for PM10 at 307 with a concentration of 181.18 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/m3) as against the safety limit of 100 ug/m3.

“The concentration of larger pollutant particles such as PM10 has increased owing to open biomass burning at Deonar landfill. These pollutants have spread across Mumbai and are closer to the earth’s surface. This has also been aggravated due to low wind speed,” said Neha Parkhi, senior programme manager, SAFAR.

People living close to the dumping ground said that the smog had considerably reduced, but the foul stench in the air continued. “We could see the horizon after four days, but that too was short lived as some of the smog returned by 10am. However, the acrid smell from the dumping ground has intensified further and there is a feeling of throat irritation, redness in the eyes and regular cough,” said Priya Fonseca, a resident of Deonar. People in Navi Mumbai, too, complained about the stench. “It seems that the smog has been carried by the wind towards the Vashi side as visibility continues to be poor, accompanied by a stink. It’s quite disheartening to wake up to such pollution levels on a Monday morning. We deserve better,” said Anjali Munde, resident of Vashi.

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