WHO calls Mumbai world's 4th most-polluted city, but Maharashtra denies
The May-2 WHO report that ranks Mumbai ahead of Beijing as fourth most polluted city globally, hasn't gone down well with Maharashtra government. While WHO reported Mumbai's PM levels are miles ahead of permissible limit, MPCB said Mumbai's air quality is "moderate" as per Center's 2009 measurement standards. The Center has set threshold limit for PM2.5 at 40microgram, but WHO has it at 10microgram.
PM/Particulate matter refers to extremely fine substances having diameter in microns: 1-micron for PM1, 2.5-micron for PM2.5 and so on. By-products of factory emission, vehicular smoke and more, PM, which remain suspended in air, are lethal as they clog the lungs, hence causing lung cancer.
Dr Gufran Baig, Project Director, SAFAR, who has been measuring air quality of Mumbai since three years, too expressed displeasure at WHO's report. "Mumbai pollution cannot build up significantly due to the coast and often gets swept away because of oceanic winds," he stated. He added WHO considered just a single station data, a busy traffic junction, and didn't even rope in Indian stakeholders.
Baig's analysis found support in NEERI director Dr Rakesh Kumar who termed the report unrealistic. While emphasizing for an in-depth study, Kumar stated, "One has to understand that at times dust accounts for up to 50% of pollutants, but not all dust types are harmful to health." Senior MPCB officials reasoned that to get an overall picture, WHO should sample every spot in Mumbai.
MPCB joint-director Dr VM Mothgare didn't deny rising air-pollution levels. As solutions, conversion to CNG is being discussed, as is enforcing "new construction and demolition rules," he said, adding IIT-Bombay would come up with "a scientific plan" under Maharashtra Clear Air Mission-2022. Recently, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam and youth-leader Aaditya Thackeray launched an initiative where non-banned plastics will be recycled by Coca-Cola and UNDP.
Not just WHO, even IIT-Bombay researchers found out recently that Mumbai's pollution is set to rise by 65% in the next seven years. In the WHO report, however, Mumbai wasn't alone. 13 more Indian cities were in the world's top 20 most polluted cities.