In the beginning of October, Mumbai hit headlines due to cutting of trees in Aarey Colony. Bombay High Court gave permission for this and on the very same day, government officials started felling trees in darkness of night. They cut over 2500 green trees despite protests by students and environmentalists. Aarey Colony forest is considered as lung of Mumbai’s environment. Cutting of trees is a matter of concern for residents of Mumbai because the air pollution is continuously increasing in the city. This matter reached to the Supreme Court. The apex court ordered the Maharashtra government not to cut even single tree in Aarey Colony.
Amid Aarey controversy, there is good news for Mumbaikars. The city has recorded the cleanest Diwali air in five years. Mumbai’s air quality has been best since 2015. Air quality monitoring began from the year 2015. On the other hand, the national capital Delhi registered a surge in air pollution on the occasion of Diwali. However, there was relief for Mumbai as Air Quality Index (AQI) in the city remained under 200. The data of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) revealed it. SAFAR is air quality monitor of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
As per SAFAR, people of Mumbai breathed better air after Diwali. Major pollutants PM 2.5 and PM 10 docked at 32 and 43 respectively in Haji Ali area of the city. This level of pollutants comes in the ‘good’ category. According to SAFAR data, an AQI between 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor, and 401-500 severe. Above 500 is emergency category. PM 10 and PM 2.5 are solid and liquid pollutants of less than 10 and 2.5 microns in size and are suspended in air. These particles can enter our respiratory system. It is harmful to health. These air pollutants may cause health complications over long span of exposure.
SAFAR monitored AQI levels on 10 locations in the city. All areas recorded ‘good’ air quality. Navi Mumbai has the cleanest air with AQI levels at 2, followed by Bhandup at 3. There was more pollution in Andheri area where AQI was at 25.
Mumbai received the heaviest rain fall this year. The rains wrecked havoc in the city and many people lost their lives. Rains continued till Diwali. But it proved beneficial for environment of the city. Rain washed away air pollutants suspended closer to the surface. It kept air free of pollution. Thus, if the city had the cleanest Diwali air, its credit goes to prolonged and heavy rain.
It does not mean that the threat of air pollution is averted. Few decades earlier, the Aarey forest in Mumbai was spread over 3,000-acre land. Later on, it was reduced to only 1,300 acres. In the name of development people cut this forest. As result of this, the air pollution rose in the city. Also, the risk of floods has been increased. During past few years, Mumbai repeatedly faced flood like situation. The city has been turned into a concrete jungle. Population and vehicular traffic are increasing continuously. Thus, pollution is also increasing without any respite.
Earlier this year, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had also claimed that levels of particulate matter (PM) have declined in Mumbai. But the Union Environment Ministry tabled a report in the Lok Sabha revealing city’s level of PM 10 in 2018 was the highest in over 20 years. PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels in Mumbai have been steadily increasing. This report was prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
According to the CPCB, the annual average of PM 10 levels in Mumbai had been at 166µg/m3 in 2018 and 151µg/m3 in 2017. The annual safe limit for PM 10 is 60 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3). Thus, it indicates that air of Mumbai is polluted and steps should be taken to reduce it. More trees should be planted and greenery in the city must increase. For this, efforts should be made by both people and the government. Clean and pollution free Mumbai is necessary for every resident of the city. We must achieve this goal.
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