For the second day in a row, the city witnessed high levels of air pollutants and smog in many parts Saturday. The Air Quality Index (AQI), which had been 341 on Friday evening, continued to be at the same level till Saturday afternoon. This is the worst level of pollution seen in the city in recent months, surpassing that of the Diwali weekend in November last year.
The current levels are at par with air quality levels of Delhi. On Friday, the AQI as recorded by System of Air-quality-weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) was the same in Delhi and Mumbai at 341. Air quality in both the cities fell in the ‘very poor’ category, showing heavy pollutants in the air, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. The city’s AQI, however, improved slightly by evening, continuing to remain in the ‘very poor’ category at 306.
The worst suburb, out of the ten spots SAFAR took measurements at, was Malad where air quality was in the ‘severe’ category which is not even witnessed in the most pollution-prone suburbs of Delhi. The AQI in the western suburb of Malad was at 435 which comes with an advisory of emergency conditions and immediate precautionary measures as per SAFAR. This figure too improved remarkably by evening and the AQI in Malad stood at a moderate 145.
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Experts say that various factors, including vehicle congestion, dust from construction sites and presence of polluting industries, impact air quality.
Air quality in other suburbs, including Chembur, Navi Mumbai and Andheri, were in the very poor category.
The forecast for Sunday too seems bleak, with air quality in many areas close to falling in the severe category.
The weather recorded by the IMD has shown a slight increase in the minimum temperature to 18.2 degrees Celsius in Santacruz and 21.5 in Colaba. The increase in humidity due to the westerly winds over the Arabian Sea too was high and led to condensation and fog.
Experts said one of the reasons for the poor air quality was the smoke due to the Deonar dumping ground fire.
The fire that had spread in pockets within the dumping ground reportedly consumed an area with a radius of 2 km. “The smoke has not stopped since the fire started days ago,” said Ahsan Ahmed, a resident of Rafi Nagar, a locality at the edge of the dumping ground.
Locals have also complained of respiratory ailments.
Many living in the eastern suburbs also complained of a heavy smog cover till Saturday afternoon.
“There was such thick smog that I could not see the building next to mine. We had to keep the windows shut since the smog carried a stench,” said Drishti Sankpal, a resident of Chembur.
“There is a lot of medical waste dumped on the ground which keeps catching fire. There have to be some mechanism in place to segregate the waste and dispose it properly,” said Ahmed.
PK Mirashe, assistant secretary (technical) of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, said that there was a definite impact of the fire on the air quality level in the city. “We are monitoring the situation and have instructed the BMC to take immediate steps to control the situation. If it is not done, action will be initiated against them,” Mirashe said.