Why can’t Mumbai breathe easy? It tops in PM10 among 24 cities

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Published on Dec 21, 2019 12:29 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

The city’s air has the highest concentration of PM10 – particulate matter of 10 microns and below, which can easily enter the lungs and cause health ailments – of 24 cities in peninsular India, says a study released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Friday.

The study classifies cities according to climate. In 2018, Mumbai recorded a PM10 concentration of 166 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3) in its air, which is twice the safe standard of 83 µg/m3 for this climatic zone, and almost three times the annual average safe standard of 60 µg/m3. Other cities in the zone with high concentration of PM10 included Kolkata (148 µg/m3), Asansol (146 µg/m3), Tiruchirappalli (110 µg/m3), Thane (108 µg/m3) and Chennai (78 µg/m3). PM10 levels for Mumbai were higher than those for central and south Indian cities, including Bengaluru, Pune, Ranchi, Jabalpur, Hyderabad, Indore, Nagpur, Nasik and Madurai.

“We often say coastal areas are better off because of the sea breeze or pollution levels are lower than landlocked areas in the Indo-Gangetic plain. But when we compared pollution level for cities having similar weather attributes or location, among them Mumbai has a problem,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), CSE.

In June, HT had reported that a study by System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) had found the share of PM2.5 in PM10 was 60% in Mumbai, higher than in Ahmedabad (55%), Pune (53%) and Delhi (49%) in 2018. Chowdhury said the focus needs to be on multi-sector, time-bound action. “While the overall NCAP [National Clean Air Programme] target looks at reducing PM by 20-30% over the next five years, the actual city target to meet safe standards is 60% for Mumbai. For this, we need to show verifiable reduction for different sectors as sources of pollution,” she said.

An important finding in the CSE study is the problem of open burning. Using satellite data from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the study found 589 fire incidents in Mumbai, 8,750 in Thane and 13,810 in Raigad between 2016 and 2019. “Emissions from these fires, episodic issue add to the urban air shed as sources for air pollution, highlighting that open fires can be prominent source for coastal areas as well,” said Chowdhury.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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