When Coldplay takes the stage on Saturday evening in front of 80,000 people, they will be performing in what is now Mumbai’s most polluted locality. Less than 24 hours before the Global Citizen Festival India kicks off at MMRDA Grounds, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) was recorded as marginally worse than Delhi.
While the overall AQI of Mumbai on Friday evening was at 201, BKC’s reading was 329 . The overall Air Quality Index of Delhi was 325.
AQI is recorded by System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), which is run by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology with the support of India Meteorological Department.
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Dr G Beig, Programme Director at SAFAR said that BKC’s air pollution has hit alarming levels in the recent past.
“We have noticed that over the past six months, air quality levels have deteriorated tremendously. Our initial inquiry reveals that the air pollution here in BKC is mostly due to high emission from vehicles that pass the area,” Dr. Beig said.
Beig suspects that vehicles in the area that reduce the air quality are those that run on diesel or on any adulterated oil. Kalanagar junction on the Western Express Highway, is one of the most congested junctions in the city.
Particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 are the two main indicators to the levels of pollution in the air. While, PM 2.5 are small pollutant particles from mainly the exhaust of vehicles, these could enter the lungs and are harmful. PM 10 are slightly larger, coarser particles, which come from windblown dust, road sweeping and construction.
“There is also such heavy construction work in BKC that also worsens the air quality,” Beig added.
According to SAFAR data, while PM 10 levels are moderate, PM 2.5 levels are “very poor” and nearly six times more than permissible levels.
Neha Parkhi, senior programme officer with SAFAR, said the worsening condition in BKC is currently due to a phenomenon called ‘Boundary Layer’ effect which keep the pollutants close to the surface of the ground.
“The marginal increase in wind speed allows the pollution boundary layer to be away from the surface but the low temperatures captures the air particulate matter and does not allow it to be dispersed,” Parkhi said.
The lack of tree cover in BKC allows the mixing and circulation of air.
“Unlike Borivli where there are an abundance of trees that act as buffers, in BKC there is a lot of open land. The air pollution recorded is for a radius of three kilometres from our air monitoring system at Kalanagar,” Parkhi added, On Friday evening, India Meteorological Department in Mumbai recorded a maximum and minimum of 32 and 22 degrees centigrade.
VK Rajeev, director, western region, IMD, said that lower wind speed and shallow inversion layer makes it difficult to disperse extremely high pollutant concentrations in winters Beig added that the worsening condition of BKC is a now a “matter of investigation”.
Meanwhile, Mumbai will be the first city in the country to have Wind Augmentation and Air Purifying Unit (WAYU) to suck in particulate matter and release fresh air at a few traffic junctions.
According to officials, five units were set up last week across three signals. While three units were set up at Sion Circle, one each was installed at junctions in Ghatkopar and Bhandup. Three more units are expected to be installed at Kalanagar junction.
Though clear sky and dry weather are predicted according to IMD data, SAFAR predicts that the AQI will worsen on Saturday, with readings rising to 331.