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Mumbai recorded worst air in 2017 in past 19 years; experts blame infrastructure projects

In 2017, PM10 levels were 151 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3), two-and-a-half times the permissible limit of 60µg/m3 set by CPCB

mumbai Updated: Aug 20, 2018 09:48 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,pollution,air pollution

Particulate matter 10 (PM10) levels — solid and liquid particles less than 10 microns suspended in the air — were the highest in Mumbai in 2017 in the past 19 years, revealed data from the EnviStats 2018, a document released by the Central Statistics Office under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

In 2017, PM10 levels were 151 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3), two-and-a-half times the permissible limit of 60µg/m3 set by CPCB. The second highest in this period was in 2008 when the figure stood at 127µg/m3 (see box).

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said pollution levels had witnessed a drastic increase last year owing to a large number of construction activities from 2016 onwards. “Metro work, other infrastructure projects, transportation of construction material, improper disposal of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, condition of paved and unpaved roads and ready-mix-concrete plants (RMC) are majorly contributing to the rise of PM10 levels,” said P Anbalagan, member secretary, MPCB.

Anbalagan predicted a considerable reduction in PM10 levels because of MPCB’s action plan, which included shutting down 20 RMC plants in Mumbai and plan to bring down C&D waste.

CPCB officials said construction activities needed to be regulated to arrest PM10 levels.

“This is possible only if we are able to restrict local agencies from violating C&D guidelines. We have directed MPCB to ask the municipal corporation to frame by-laws where C&D waste rules are followed, and if violated, strict action is taken,” said A Sudhakar, member secretary, CPCB.

The major contributor to PM10 levels is windblown suspended dust mostly from construction activities at 56.3%, followed by industrial and power sectors at 15.9% and 6.7%, according to SAFAR. “The effect of PM10 on our lungs is equally adverse as PM2.5 over a period of time,” said Sudhakar. “The current levels may not impact people on daily basis, but can facilitate other chronic health ailments over 10-15 years of exposure.”

Most premature deaths in Mumbai and Delhi over two decades were caused by stroke, revealed a study by the Indian Institute of Technology–Bombay (IIT-B) in 2017.

Experts said with more development, pollution problems would increase but air pollution abatement measures needed to be implemented simultaneously. “While we already have rules in place for dust control from construction and C&D waste, the problem lies where we still haven’t been able to work out a mechanism for compliance, enforcement and monitoring to ensure we minimize the adverse impact of PM10,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 00:15 IST