‘Very poor’ air quality in Mumbai after Deonar fire here to stay

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 02, 2016 20:11 IST
The fire that started at the Deonar dumping ground on January 27 has taken Mumbai’s air quality to its worst levels since June 2015 when SAFAR set up the AQI. (Prashant Waydande)

The air quality in Mumbai continued to remain in the “very poor” category for the fifth consecutive day since the Deonar fire broke out.

The air quality index (AQI) measured by the System for Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) was 307 on Tuesday morning that decreased to 306 by the evening. The pollution level on Tuesday morning was higher than Monday evening’s reading of 304. The index was 308 on Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s AQI was better as compared to Mumbai as the capital recorded an AQI of 215 that increased to 219 by the evening, which falls under the “poor” category. Faster wind speeds have dispersed pollutants in Delhi, said researchers at SAFAR.

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

AQI levels for Mumbai have been predicted at 305 for Wednesday by SAFAR, which means that the air quality would remain “very poor”. 

“The air quality in Mumbai is getting better as the pollutants are slowly getting dispersed through the current meteorological conditions that include moderate wind speeds. However, low temperatures are a cause of concern as pollutants can get trapped close to the earth’s surface,” said Gufran Beig, the project director of SAFAR.

Night temperatures in the suburbs dropped to below normal levels on Tuesday, recorded between 8.30am Monday and 8.30am Tuesday at 17.5 degrees Celsius, 0.4 degree above normal.

South Mumbai recorded high night temperatures during the same time at 22.5 degrees Celsius, 3.1 degree Celsius above normal. 

Moisture levels — high levels trap pollutants closer to the earth surface — were lower on Tuesday morning as 76 per cent and 74 per cent were recorded at Santacruz and Colaba respectively that further fell to 66 per cent at Colaba and 37 per cent at Santacruz by the evening.

While day temperatures were closer to normal at the suburbs, south Mumbai recorded a jump of 2 degrees Celsius above normal.

As per SAFAR’s forecast, air quality in the city is expected to improve by the end of the week. “AQI levels are likely to fall from the ‘very poor’ levels to ‘poor’ levels by Friday. By next week, we expect temperatures to increase, dropping the index under the ‘moderate’ category,” Beig said.

The fire that started at the Deonar dumping ground on January 27 has taken Mumbai’s air quality to its worst levels since June 2015 when SAFAR set up the AQI. The index has been above 300 owing to the increased emission of PM 10 (suspended particulate matter measuring less than 10 microns that can get lodged in the respiratory system) and PM 2.5 (particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 microns).

While the fire has been largely brought under control, smoke still billowed from the dumpyard on Tuesday morning. Fire tenders, civic body officials and the local police continued to be at the spot even on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, the AQI (based on PM 2.5 levels) remained high in the suburbs. For the sixth day in a row, Chembur, which is close to the dumpyard, recorded an AQI of 369, followed by Navi Mumbai at 332 and Andheri at 322. Most of the 10 locations where SAFAR takes pollution readings recorded very poor AQI levels on Tuesday morning but areas like Malad, Worli and Colaba saw moderate air quality.

People residing in the vicinity of the dumpyard complained that even if the conditions were better on Tuesday, there was persistent stench and smoke. “We have been experiencing redness in the eyes for the past six days and my children have had extreme breathing difficulties. Doctors have advised us to undergo a lung function test if the breathing problems continue,” said Chembur resident Priya Surve.

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