Bad air: Mumbai risks going the Delhi way, warn experts

Mumbai’s average annual concentration of particulate matter (PM) 2.5, the extremely fine pollutants that penetrate our lungs, has been much higher than the permissible limit. If measures are not implemented soon, the city will go the Delhi way, say experts.

While the annual permissible limit for PM 2.5 is 40ug/m3, the city’s average in 2017 was 58. In 2018, it rose to 65. The data, gathered by System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) through their 10 monitoring stations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), also shows that except for the monsoon months, the city’s seasonal average of PM 2.5 has been on the higher side as well.

“During the rains, there is some respite as the particles get washed away. But at other times, people are exposed to excessive pollutants,” SAFAR’s project director Gufran Beig told The Hindu. “Mumbai is blessed with a seashore and the sea winds helps in keeping the air quality better. Delhi, on the other hand, is landlocked and has no such avenues. But mitigation measures have to be implemented before Mumbai goes the Delhi way,” said Mr. Beig.

SAFAR had carried out an exercise to identify the prominent sources of emissions in the MMR, and biofuels topped the chart, followed by industrial emissions. “This shows that there are open burning activities being carried out on a large scale. In many areas of the city, burning of wood and coal is still very high,” said Mr. Beig. The government’s scheme promoting the use of LPG for cooking should gradually bring about a difference, he said.

Unhealthy air

Health experts say high exposure to PM 2.5 triggers a spurt in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and precipitates acute attacks of asthma. “It also increases the risk of heart attack among patients whose heart is already compromised. Depending on the chemical composition of PM2.5, it may also increase the risk of lung cancer,” said Dr. Arun Kumar Sharma from the Department of Community Medicine, University College of Medical Sciences in Delhi. “It is important to promote research at the local level to understand the burden of diseases due to pollution in terms of disability, morbidity, mortality and productive losses,” said Dr. Sharma, who has closely studied the health impact of air pollution in Delhi.

Mumbai-based chest physician Dr. Kuntal Pal said a large number of patients impacted by pollution are showing up with interstitial lung disease, which leads to fibrosis of the lungs. “When we take the patients’ history, exposure to pollution becomes obvious,” said Dr. Pal, who practises in Kurla. He said patients are typically in proximity to a construction site, or are exposed to emissions from small industries or garbage burning.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 9:30:01 AM |

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