It’s official: Dumpyard fires made air toxic

The BMC’s data only reinforces what citizens and activists have been pointing out for months
By Laxman Singh | Hindustan Times
PUBLISHED ON AUG 22, 2016 01:19 AM IST

Chembur, Ghatkopar and Mankhurd residents breathe the city’s worst air, with frequent fires at the Deonar and Mulund dumping grounds pushing air pollution to dangerously high levels.

Data on air quality compiled by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in its environment status report (ESR) shows the high presence of suspended particulate matter — considered the most dangerous form of pollution — in Chembur, Ghatkopar and Mankhurd. Such matter, mainly dust, sulfate and black carbon, lodges itself deep inside the lungs and can cause cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and even lung cancer.

The BMC’s data only reinforces what citizens and activists have been pointing out for months. Residents have been complaining about the quality of air after repeated fires between December 2015 and March 2016 at Deonar, the city’s largest dumpyard. Air quality has been ‘very poor’, affecting visibility and causing breathing problems and asthma attacks among the locals.

Month-wise data from April 2015 to March 2016 showed SPM level in Chembur was 700 microgram per cubic meter (mgcm) – the ideal limit being 200 – between December and March.

At Bhandup, SPM levels touched 1,000 mgcm in December last year.

Experts said industrial units in Chembur and Bhandup, and a rise in vehicular traffic, intense construction activities and stone crushing could be causing poor air quality.

“SPM is bound to be very high in Mumbai because of a combination of a number of particles strung together. The main source for the pollutant is dust from open landfills, open burning and several construction activities in the city,” said Gufran Beig, project director, System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). “Last year, the soil was also dry because of poor rainfall and sea breeze allowed dust to be suspended closer to the earth’s surface,” Beig said.

“Poor air quality and a rise in SPM levels is the root cause of ailments like bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary deseas (COPD) and asthma,” said Dr Prashant Chajjad, Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and board member of the European Association for Bronchology and Interventional Pulmonology. “Spending time in such areas will not only escalate the condition of patients, but will also increase cost of medication and complexity of the ailment.”

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