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Mumbai data on air quality poses grave health risk to residents

Data on air quality over the past two years has revealed that the pollution levels in the city are six times over the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards and at least twice more polluted than the Indian National Ambient Air Quality standards.

The air quality across Mumbai for 2016 and 2017 was seen at an annual average of 132 μg/m3 and 130μg/ m3 respectively for Particulate Matter 10 (PM10). The WHO annual standard is 20 μg/m3 and the Indian National Ambient Air Quality standard is 60 μg/m3. PM10 describes inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller.

“The air quality in Mumbai is deteriorating over the years, having a huge health and economic impact on the people living in the city. If adequate measures are not taken, Mumbai will soon go the Delhi way,” warned Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, Climate & Energy, Greenpeace, India.

The month-wise report on pollution levels for Bandra and Sion for 2016 and 2017 has been sourced by NGO Greenpeace from the MPCB’s website. Particulate matter (PM) 10 is taken into consideration to measure the pollution levels. The months of January, November and December show a spike in pollution levels compared to other months.

Explaining about the spike in pollution levels in winters and on the dangers of PM10, Dahiya said, “In winter, the air around the surface becomes a bit stable and the inter mixing and dispersion of air doesn’t allow the pollutants to disperse and dilute as compared to summer. The PM 10 is more dangerous because it can penetrate deeper into our respiratory systems like lungs.”

Dahiya further explained that Particulate Matter is a dust particle which contains different particles like sulphur dioxide (SO2) and also has natural dust particles, heavy metals like lead, mercury. “The fossil fuel consumption, such as diesel and petrol in transportation, and coal burning for electricity projection and waste burning, along with construction activity, are the main factors for PM 10 concentrations being high and hazardous to human health,” added Dahiya.

Interestingly, Mumbai has only two air quality monitoring stations – in Sion and Bandra- for which Mumbaikars can seek data. This means that people living in other parts of the city are not even aware of the quality of air they are breathing. “Compared to Delhi, where there are more than 25 real time air quality monitoring stations, Mumbai just had three real time air quality monitoring stations, out of which data is available for only two,” said Dahiya. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has proposed to set up seven more stations.

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