Air quality test by residents finds high pollutant levels in Kharghar

After their complaints of smell of chemicals and poor air quality went unaddressed for over a month, Kharghar residents decided to look into the matter themselves, and found that the air they breathe is full of toxic particles.

The residents had air samples tested by a private laboratory, which revealed extremely high levels of particulate matter, both PM 2.5 and PM 10, in the air.

Kharghar residents had met officials of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the Panvel City Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to express concerns over the worsening air quality in the area.

“However, no action has been taken to improve air quality, nor have the authorities installed air pollution meters as we requested,” said Mangesh Ranawade, founder of the Kharghar Sector 30-36 Residents’ Group and the group We Need Clean Air.

Thus, the residents decided to identify where and when the stench of chemicals and smog were strong. The team visited every sector and found that sector 10, Road Palli, Railway station, and sectors 30 to 36 were the worst-affected areas in Kharghar. The smell was strongest between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. “The onset of the pollutant smell is after 10 p.m., and the stench peaks early in the morning. We classified the areas as low, medium and strong intensity of smell. The smell was stronger on the top floor of buildings, said Mr. Ranawade.

The residents then decided to take a more scientific approach to test the air quality.

Roping in experts

Mr. Ranawade said, “We sought help from Equinox Labs Private Limited, by spending ₹6,000 contributed by the We Need Clean Air group members.”

The study was a summation of day and night wind direction. The speeds vary from 2 mph or 8 mph, depending on various environmental factors.

At 11.30 p.m. on October 31, experts from the laboratory took a random air sample at the junction near the Rapid Action Force campus, where one enters Kharghar from Taloja. The sample was tested on the 14 parameters prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board, Mr. Ranawade said.

“Inference from the readings clearly showed that the PM 2.5 reading was extremely high at 122.07 microgram per cubic metre (ug/m3) while the specified limit is below 60. The PM 10 level was 127.3 ug/m3, while the specified limit is below 100. Formaldehyde was at 3.8 ppm (parts per million), though it should be below 1 ppm,” Mr. Ranawade said.

Residents are now hoping that the authorities act on their information.

Kharghar resident Anuradha Misra, a research scientist (polymer science and engineering), said, “We shifted to the area last year and had several continuous health issues, especially the children. This report is just a reconfirmation of the bad air quality and pollution in Kharghar, which we can clearly smell and see on daily basis. As a scientist and a mother, this is not at all acceptable. Thanks to the study, I now look forward to some action being taken soon.”

Authorities respond

Municipal Commissioner Sudhakar Shinde said that the MPCB, and not the PCMC, is authorised to assess and take action on pollution-related matters. “We have communicated the information to the MPCB,” Dr. Shinde said.

The MPCB, meanwhile, said that PM 10 and PM 2.5 in the air are a result of vehicular pollution. Anil Mohekar, regional officer of the MPCB, said, “With regards to our patrolling, we are carrying out regular patrols and will continue for three more months.”

Mr. Mohekar said that the strong smell in the area was because of bromine, and that the board has asked five companies in MIDC-Taloja to stop work after 8 p.m. to address this issue.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 10:49:14 AM |

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