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Mumbai grows, pollution soars: Construction dust ups risk of stroke, shows data

Level of dangerous particles in the air you breathe has risen drastically in 3 years; PM 10 levels in city 2.5 times the annual safe limit, shows environment ministry study

mumbai Updated: Jul 30, 2018 14:15 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,air pollution,Construction dust
People walk through dust created by roadwork in Mumbai. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

The regions of Mumbai, Thane, Dombivli and other cities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) witnessed an increase in the concentration of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 (solid and liquid particles less than 10 microns suspended in the air), the Union environment ministry revealed.

The data, collected from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) between the years 2015 and 2017 was released in the Lok Sabha last week. MPCB said the increase in PM 10 levels was a direct result of failure to control dust emissions from construction activities in MMR.

“Transportation of construction material, condition of roads, and ready-mix-concrete plants (RMC) are also major factors for this rise,” said P Anbalagan, member secretary, MPCB.

A senior Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) official, said, “The analysis of feedback reports from state pollution control boards showed that construction activity and open storage of construction material, traffic congestion, dumping of construction and solid waste, waste burning and road dust resuspension were major factors for rise in PM10.”

In Mumbai, PM10 levels increased from 107 microgram per cubic metre (µg/m3) in 2015, to 119 µg/m3 in 2016 and 151µg/m3 in 2017, which is almost 2.5 times the annual safe limit for PM10, 60µg/m3. The regions of Thane, Dombivli and Ambernath also showed a similar trend. Navi Mumbai however, showed a declining trend during the same time.

PM in air is a leading cause of deaths related to respiratory diseases. Most premature deaths in Mumbai over two decades were caused by stroke (a medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off), due to inhalation of suspended particles such as PM10, revealed a study by the Indian Institute of Technology -Bombay (IITB) from 2017.

Doctors said long-term inhalation of PM10 particles can cause the lungs to deteriorate and collapse.

“We have witnessed a significant increase in the number of patients coming for treatment as a direct result of rise in particulate matter between 2015 and 2017. PM10 can enter lungs causing breathing disorders and damage lungs,” said Dr Sanjeev Mehta, pulmonologist, Lilavati Hospital in Bandra.

In its reply to the Lok Sabha, the Union environment ministry listed steps taken to reduce air pollution across the cities, specifically for PM10 emissions.

The MoEFCC official said, “We addressed all these issues under the recently formulated National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) for abatement of air pollution.”

However, Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner for Greenpeace said that the ministry failed to take strict action on reducing the sources of PM10 pollution. “The NCAP just talks about monitoring pollution and does not say anything about how pollution levels will be reduced. It does not provide time-bound targets for cities. The rate at which construction is increasing in MMR, levels will only be higher in coming years,” Dahiya said.

For PM10, the System of Air quality Weather Forecasting and Research under the Ministry of Earth Sciences said that windblown suspended dust, mostly from construction activities, was responsible for 56.3% share of emissions in Mumbai

“Dust coated with toxic emissions is hazardous to our health” said Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 14:15 IST