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THE CONTEXT: Mumbai is facing severe air pollution levels worse than that of Delhi’s at a four-year high mark for the October in particulate matters as well as temperature after the withdrawal of the southwest monsoon.
MORE ON THE NEWS:
- The Air Quality Index (AQI) in several places of the city had breached the 200-mark in the October, 2023 which is considered ‘poor’ and causes serious health hazards.
- In the first few days of this month, the pollution was much more intense than what the AQI indicated because a layer of haze blanketed major parts of the Mumbai sky, leading to reduced visibility.
CAUSES OF AIR POLLUTION
- Wind patterns: The direction and strength of winds are often the key factor in determining Mumbai’s air quality. Winds usually alternate between moving from the sea towards the land and moving from the land towards the sea, and this cycle repeats every three to four days. This year, instead of alternating every 3-4 days, the winds were sometimes changing directions after eight or ten days, which impacted the city’s air quality.
- Diminshing effect of sea breezes: The effect of sea breezes is weakening because of adverse meteorological conditions, triggered by climate change. This has negated the natural cleansing advantages of the city by the sea.
- Climate change: The dip in La Nina and cooling of the ocean surface and change in wind patterns partially caused a sudden spike in the particulate matter in the coastal city. The dip in the periodic cooling of the sea surface leads to a defers the strong wind reversal from across the sea, keeping the pollutants hanging in the lower atmosphere for longer period.
- Dust from road and construction sites: There is high level of construction activity ongoing in the city. City officials concluded dust from construction sites as the key contributor of this pollution. Another cause of pollution in the city is found to be the displacement of dust particles from roads and vehicles carrying construction debris.
- Use of unclean oils for cooking in eateries: Cooking at several restaurants, dhabas and other eateries using unclean oils emit ultrafine particles including oil droplets and condensed organic compounds. Unclean kitchens also produce nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde in harmful concentrations.
STEPS TAKEN BY AUTHORITIES:
- Officials decided to operate anti-smog guns on 50 to 60 major roads. A sensor-based air pollution monitor to be installed at work sites.
- Vehicles transporting construction debris will be covered properly with tarpaulin sheets and not carry more than the prescribed load.
- The transport commissioner has also been directed to take stringent action against vehicles which are past their service life, do not have a Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate or are overloading.
- BMC formed task forces to conduct weekly drive to identify those restaurants, bakeries and banquet halls those were using unclean oils as well as fuels to fire the ovens.
- BMC issued a warning to halt construction activities at all sites if dust and pollution control measures were not being implemented in response to deteriorating air quality in Mumbai.
- Earlier, BMC had released Mumbai Air Pollution Mitigation Plan(MAPMP) guidelines that laid down procedures to be followed during construction and other activities that cause dust and pollution.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Robust air quality monitoring: Air quality monitoring needs to become robust and regular, with real-time updates about the critical air pockets and sources of pollution along with health information. Data dissemination should be quick, sorted and effective so that analysis becomes easier for mitigation and policymaking.
- Addressing root cause of the pollution: There is a need to address the root cause of the pollution which is not the natural cause but anthropogenic. For that, the government needs to run awareness programmes and prioritise long-term mitigation of pollution by using scientific techniques.
- Inclusive approach: There is a need to have a more inclusive approach by involving everyone in the decision-making step. The government can form a city-level committee under the National Clean Air Program, including citizen stakeholders and experts from civil society. The inputs from the committee and collectives can be taken into consideration while addressing different sources of air pollution.
Geographical advantage of Mumbai has protected the city from bad quality air but the recent rise in pollution is rising concerns among the residents. However, given the seriousness of climate change, it is time to take serious steps for effective measures to improve the city’s air quality.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS
Q.1 What are the key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) initiated by the Government of India? (2020)
Q.2 Enumerate the National Water Policy of India. Taking river Ganges as an example, discuss the strategies which may be adopted for river water pollution control and management. What are the legal provisions of the management and handling of hazardous wastes in India? (2013)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q.1 Despite having natural cleansing air mechanism, Mumbai is facing severe air pollution. Discuss the causes and suggest measures to tackle the pollution.
SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-climate/why-mumbai-is-witnessing-more-poor-air-quality-days-8998070/#:~:text=Long%2Dterm%20trends%20show%20a,more%20consumptin%20and%20more%20emissions.Spread the Word