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BMC must develop roadmap to make Mumbai carbon-neutral city by 2035: BJP

According to experts, more than 50% of the pollution is due to the sudden surge in construction activities, increased vehicular emissions and changes in wind speed this winter. The government needs to intervene in this situation, Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar said.

mumbai air quality, bjp, mvaThe city’s air quality has dipped to unhealthy levels. According to experts, more than 50 per cent of this pollution is due to the sudden surge in construction activities, increased vehicular emissions and changes in wind speed this winter. (File)
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BMC must develop roadmap to make Mumbai carbon-neutral city by 2035: BJP
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While holding the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government responsible for overlooking environmental issues that caused the Air Quality Index (AQI) to dip from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ this winter, the BJP has demanded a roadmap to make Mumbai pollution free by 2035.

The city’s air quality has dipped to unhealthy levels. According to experts, more than 50 per cent of this pollution is due to the sudden surge in construction activities, increased vehicular emissions and changes in wind speed this winter. The government needs to intervene and take immediate measures to prevent further deterioration, Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar said.

In a letter to Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, he has urged the government to set up an “inquiry” and “fix accountability” on errant officers.

Shelar said that according to environment experts, “Financial concessions provided to the real estate sector during the tenure of the MVA government have led to the uncontrolled rise in construction projects being undertaken simultaneously across the city.” Also, “the building proposal and environment department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) did not pay any attention to the environmental hazards that all these construction activities would pose on the air quality of Mumbai.”

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Nearly 1,500 redevelopment and construction projects are currently being carried out across the city. “Holistic approach is needed to tackle the pollution crisis across Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Unfortunately, the BMC’s environment control cell has been found lacking in this regard,” Shelar pointed out. Urging the government to initiate strict measures, the BJP leader also suggested measures to resolve the crisis.

‘Mandatory initiatives’ suggested

Like the National Capital Region (NCR), “the government of Maharashtra must also form a Commission for Air Quality Management headed by the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) to monitor pollution levels and formulate a graded-response action plan to tackle the pollution levels in Mumbai and the adjoining MMR.”

The BMC must set up the long-pending construction and debris recycling facility and mandate the construction sector across the MMR to abide by pollution control norms. This must be made compulsory for municipalities in the MMR as well.

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Burning of dry waste and illegal burning of waste materials must be stopped. Illegal furnaces to extract metals must be immediately stopped in Malwani, Jogeshwari and Behrampada areas. Also, the illegal waste disposal and vehicle scrap industry working in CST, Santacruz and Kurla must be shut immediately.

Bakeries, illegal farsan (snack) factories and other eateries in the entire MMR that use wood and coal must be asked to shift to CNG or PNG. The BMC must allocate Rs 100 crore to help them fund this transition through soft loans repayable over seven years.

All crematoriums in Mumbai must shift to electric or PNG-based furnaces. The BMC must fund the development of a green public transport system in Mumbai. The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST) must be directed to shift to 100 per cent electric vehicles over the next 18 months on a wet-lease basis so that there is no financial burden either on BEST or on Mumbaikars.

‘Green transport fund of Rs 500 crore’

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The BMC must also create a green transport fund of Rs 500 crore to fund low-interest loans through banks or NBFCs to encourage autorickshaw and taxi drivers to switch to electric vehicles. This will not be a subsidy but a low interest (3%) on the vehicle loan. The civic body must similarly switch its fleet of vehicles – heavy vehicles including garbage compactors, truck fleet and police vehicles – and an allocation of Rs 500 crore must be made.

Aegis Logistics Ltd and SeaLord Containers Limited must be immediately shifted as these industries have turned Mahul into a poisonous gas chamber, he said. It may be recalled that even the court had asked these industries to be shifted and they were fined heavily by the National Green Tribunal. It is surprising that neither the MVA government nor its environment minister had paid heed to the court’s strictures even after it was brought to their notice during the Assembly session, MLA Shelar said.

According to the Centre of Environment Studies, four industrial estates – Trans-Thane Creek (TTC), Taloja, Ambernath and Dombivali – and 10 other industrial estates in the MMR use over 2 million tonnes of coal and polluting fuels for their energy requirements. This must be immediately transitioned to clean fuel – CNG or PNG. In fact, the BMC, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), MMRDA and the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) can greatly contribute by setting up a Rs 800 crore fund which can be given as soft loans to help these industries transition to clean fuel.

In order to utilise Mumbai’s organic waste and convert it into electricity, the BMC needs to invite tenders under a PPP model wherein the civic body will be providing the required space at a nominal  charge to ensure that the over 3,000 tonnes of organic waste, that has no
productive use, can be converted to wealth through CNG or electricity generation.

“A committee must be set up by the BMC to draw a roadmap to make Mumbai carbon neutral city by 2035. It must be noted that the NMMC is already working in this direction, ” he stressed.

Controlling construction activities

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The BMC must also get a scientific study  done by IITians to determine and establish the construction density threshold activity that can be permitted per square kilometre to curb uncontrolled construction activities across the city. Construction sites must be made to implement dust mitigation measures by imposing huge fines as penalty. “It is sad that even in my constituency, there is zero adherence to dust mitigation measures,” he said.

As per the orders of the Mumbai High Court, the BMC must create a dedicated anti-demolition police force to oversee the illegal construction industry that is trying to grab every inch of land, even encroaching on mangroves. Also, the transport and logistics sector within the MMR must be mandated to use electric vehicles and must be provided attractive concessions in road tax for large-scale adoption.

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“If all government agencies team up and work towards this common cause, it will address Mumbai’s rising pollution crisis and will make our city once again a better place to live in,” Ashish Shelar added.

First published on: 24-01-2023 at 12:40 IST
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