Mumbai is bracing for an early onslaught of toxic air, with PM10 levels exceeding those in Delhi, a worrying trend that has been steadily intensifying. Last year, the city witnessed almost double the number of “Poor” air quality days in December and January compared to two years prior.
Mumbai’s Air Quality Index (AQI) during last winter was notably worse, with 66 out of 92 days registering “Poor” and “Very Poor” AQI levels. In comparison, Delhi had fewer days with similarly poor AQI. This represents a serious concern, as an AQI above 200 is considered “Poor,” above 300 is “Very Poor,” and constitutes a severe health hazard.
A range of factors, both natural and man-made, has contributed to this crisis. Changing wind patterns, construction activities, and the prevalence of dust from these sites have worsened the city’s AQI. Construction debris is one of the top five sources of air pollution, as per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Air Pollution Mitigation Plan.
Open burning of waste and garbage, and the usage of unclean fuels in eateries, and various industries are the other significant contributors to Mumbai’s deteriorating air quality. Experts believe that a holistic action plan is required to address all these sources simultaneously.
Data reveals a rising public health cost associated with pollution. Exposure to poor air quality is equivalent to inhaling the particulate matter of several cigarettes daily. Vulnerable groups, such as children, face the risk of developing respiratory diseases in the future due to their exposure to such conditions. Data obtained under the Right to Information Act demonstrates an increase in the average number of daily casualties from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in the past six years.
It is crucial for all agencies to work together to address these concerns. As the city grapples with rising casualties and health complications linked to poor air quality, there is a growing urgency to raise public awareness and develop a more coordinated response to tackle this pressing issue.