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  Life   More Features  29 May 2018  Mumbai in toxic chokehold

Mumbai in toxic chokehold

Published : May 29, 2018, 6:47 am IST
Updated : May 29, 2018, 6:47 am IST

Who report reveals that nine in 10 Mumbai residents inhale bad air, which is equivalent of puffing four cigarettes daily.

Picture for representational purposes
 Picture for representational purposes

The World Health Organisation (WHO), in a recent report, ranked Mumbai fourth among the most polluted mega cities in the world. The report also states that nine in 10 Mumbaikars inhale bad air, which is the equivalent of  puffing four cigarettes a day.

But the Maximum City aside, other Indian cities are also being suffocated by toxic fumes.

In a recent assessment by non-governmental environmental organisation Greenpeace India, several cities have been affected by airborne toxins. “We assessed data from 280 cities that we received from different pollution control boards and learnt that not even one city stands with clear air pollution standards. More than 230 cities were not even complying with the Indian standards. That shows that the air pollution is the national concern,” says Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Sunil further says that the Mumbai’s air quality has been deteriorating over the years. “The significance and the magnitude of the hazards are seen parallel to that of Beijing and the rest of China. But even they have less pollution than Mumbai,” he adds. Environmentalist Stalin Dayanand rues that air pollution is neither a priority for authorities nor for the people. “Decreasing air quality is the one area which has been completely neglected by the municipal corporations and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. These bodies have done little to preserve the green cover,” says Stalin.


The environmentalist blames the authority for sitting in air-conditioned offices and letting the poor and vulnerable people suffer. “The children and senior citizens are the ones who are bearing the brunt of it,” slams Stalin.

So what is behind this catastrophe? “It has all happened due to the construction this city has witnessed over the last four years. This circulates dust, which combines with vehicle smoke, and remains in the air. And when the wind rises, the dust settles on trees,” he explains, adding, “Fifteen feet from the ground is only dust and that is what people are inhaling.”

Shedding light on the health problems brought about by this menace, consultant chest physician at Apollo Clinic, Dr Amit Gawande, says, “I have seen people affected with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is common with smokers. But in the last few years we have been getting a lot of non-smokers with COPD. This proves that the pollution situation is worsening.”

The doctor reveals that earlier the percentage of non-smokers affected with COPD was between five and 10 per cent; whereas, now it has reached 25 per cent, and the reason is exposure to pollution. “We are breathing in a lot of carbon monoxide and nitrogen-polluted smoke which is causing lung elasticity, where the lungs are expanded due to pollution,” says Dr Amit.

Sunil believes that the situation can be changed drastically with a little bit of awareness. “People have to be more assertive on their right to health and life. Once they start doing this, the authorities will have to take action in comprehensive way,” says Sunil.

Meanwhile, Stalin has a suggestion for the authorities. “Every construction site, whether government or private, needs to sprinkle water at construction sites to prevent dust particles from escaping. There should be more high-quality hybrid buses on dedicated bus lanes. People have to restrict usage of private cars and use public transport more often,” says Stalin.

The MPCB didn’t respond to our queries despite repeated attempts. However, the joint director, Air, MPCB V.M. Motghare had said earlier, “Mumbai is experiencing various development projects owing to which particulate matter is bound to be higher. However, the MPCB is taking measures to bring it down.”

Tags: world health organisation, bad air