Fighting against POLLUTION to Save Environment
Air Quality Control Strategies for Mumbai : Dr. D. B. Boralkar & R. Kumar

Right to Clean Air
Clean air is the first immediate commodity, for any human being to live. It has the highest value to the user who wishes to survive, as clean air is the only way of receiving oxygen for respiration by human beings. Desirably it would be the most precious natural resource, listed at the top of the priority list of natural resource to be conserved by us. Most ironically however it is the most neglected and sometimes most obviously overlooked by many of us. We forgo the benefit of clean air sometimes for better and faster commuting within cities in between the suburban areas, for conducting an industrial, commercial or business activity in view of economic gains, or sometimes for livelihood.

At times we forgo the benefit even while recreation sometimes willingly and sometimes helplessly. In other terms we discount the troubles caused due to polluted air to the benefit we receive for accepting the risk of health effects, which may be caused by it. Health issues surfacing due to polluted air are very well known and documented.

Health effects of Air Pollution
Exposure to Air pollutants imparts a wide range of acute and chronic health effects from minor physiological disturbances to deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It may cause mild to sever cough, chest pain, bronchitis, congestion and phlegm, and cause or aggravate allergies. Particulates in air (i.e. suspended particles with less then 10 microns in aerodynamic diameter) PM10 aggravate the diseases in the patients suffering from bronchitis, asthma, cardiovascular problems and influenza can impart toxicity to plants and decrease visibility. Finer particles (less then 2.5 micron diameters) PM2.5 reaches lungs and may impact toxicity causing chronic respiratory symptoms or impair pulmonary function. Particulate Matter (PM) emissions per annum in Mumbai were estimated at about 32,000 tons per year. (NEERI 2004).

Exposure to Air pollutants can increase the risk for lung cancer from 0.26 x 106 to 1.4 x 106 per person per year due to a constant lifetime exposure to one microgram per cubic meter of diesel combusted particles by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) USA estimate. And at least 0.4 to 1.1 present of global deaths annually can be related to air pollution exposure either acute or chronic. Table 1 explains some of the major sources, pollutants and related health hazards. Vulnerable groups include infants, the elderly, and those suffering from chronic respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema. Mumbai over the last twenty years have evaluated the full extent of the correlation and damage to human health (Kamat and Mahasur, 1997).

The Irony
On the one hand it is known elementarily that clean air is essential for healthy life, we know the causing agents and mode of development responsible for causing serious health effects due to polluted air. On the other hand we are fairly aware of the technological options available and could broadly appreciate the policy and regulatory initiatives to follow to meet the challenges. What we have not achieved till date is a sophisticated comprehension facilitated by accurate and exhaustive collation of data relating the two viz. polluted air and health issues (Ravi Shankar, P. 2002), meticulous analysis and understanding of the problem, productive partnerships between the nodal institutions and consideration of options, plans and strategies for combating the problem. Since there are documentary and practical evidences about the sharp rise in the Air pollution and related diseases more acutely in recent time in the urban India, a sincere attempt to know the problem more precisely and in a way which could help us to take practical steps to mitigate it makes complete sense. Moreover, a problem known fully is half solved.

Why this workshop?
There is therefore, need to understand sources its impact and delineate strategies for the implementation of specific action plan. City specific strategies require adequate understanding of its development, its pattern of pollution generating sources, strength of the institutions and implementation will of the city authorities. One can not however, neglect the role of public groups and also the judiciaries who have demonstrated urgency in solving problems. Though their roles are laudable, however, different stakeholders are expressing their grievances based on one sided or inadequate information based action being implemented or forced upon. As a result one inappropriate step towards solving the problem would often result in aggravating the other and make things complex. One of the goals of this workshop is to generate a consensus towards a knowledge based response to solve the problem form practically every entity or agency in a unified way and collectively. Together we can achieve more. Our attempts will be fuller and meaningful, our challenge more achievable.

The remainder of this briefing will first brush up the developmental trends in Mumbai. Then it will highlight some pressing facts about the cities air pollution and related health issues. It would summarize with the challenges and the way ahead to meet them. Finally, some discussions on the strategies needed to be adopted in the present and for the future.

Development of Mumbai
Located in the bio-geographic province of the “Malabar Coast’ of the Western ghat zone, west cost of India, Bombay as we knew it before was a peninsula composed of seven islets. Hills, forests, creeks, wetlands and built areas characterize the region. The coast line of Greater Mumbai Region (GMR) has abundance of wetlands / mangroves exhibiting significant biological diversity. Many of these wetlands have been reclaimed for development. Reclamation of these wetlands by using them as dumping grounds for garbage, debris and other solid waste and have given shape to present day Mumbai island with the Arabian Sea to the west, and Bombay harbor and the inlet of thane creek to the east.

Mahim Creek, Cuff Parade, and Bhyander are the areas where wetlands have been reclaimed for residential and commercial uses and Ghodbunder has been reclaimed for industrial use. Today the greater Mumbai region is spread over an area of 603 sq km. It extends from the Island City in the South to Borivali and Mulund in the North. It comprises of Island city, Western and Eastern suburb. The greater Mumbai Region is depicted in Figure 1