Fighting against POLLUTION to Save Environment
Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network in Maharashtra
Policy of Interventions for Air Pollution Control in Mumbai : Cost Benefit and
Perspective of India’s 25 years of Air Act Implementation

Rakesh Kumar[a], D.B.Boralkar[b], A.Deshpande[c] and T.MacDonald[d]

[a] Dy.Director, National Environmental Engg. Res. Institute, Mumbai, INDIA

[b] Member Secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Mumbai, INDIA

[c] Senior Scientist, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Mumbai, INDIA

[d] India/South Asia Program Manager, Office of International Affairs, USEPA, Washington DC, USA

Urban air pollution has posed a problem for city dwellers for centuries. Mumbai, one of the mega city of India, is the only Indian city to have good environmental pollution data covering for more than 25 years. In 1978, the annual level of NO2 was around 13 µg/m3, which was less than the WHO guideline value of 40 µg/m3 but from 1978 onwards up to 1982 there was a steep growth in the levels of NO2 reaching 50 µg/m3 in 1991. Suspended particulate matter (SPM) always exceeded the WHO guideline range (60-90 µg/m3) reaching a peak of 385 µg/m3 in 1987. After 1987, the annual average has come down to 285 µg/m3.

This paper presents the journey of 25 years and more actions and policy interventions leading to changes in air pollution of a mega city of India. This work was completed under a joint initiative of MPCB, NEERI and USEPA. Air Pollution Control issues in Mumbai started way back in 70’s when its industrial area Chembur was called gas chamber. This area housed large industrial units such as fertilizer industry, three refineries and a power plant. Before even the Air Act, 1981, air quality monitoring commenced. Years of monitoring linked with health study made the authorities to implement various schemes for industrial emission control through technological changes, fuel shift as well as end-of-the pipe treatment leading to drastic reduction of pollution in this area.

Owing to the commitment MPCB made subsequent to the BAQ 2004 as a national commitment, it has undertaken large scale attempts to bring up the policy interventions which have worked and given benefit of better air quality and health. Based on the study completed, it has also undertaken large-scale epidemiological study to develop long-term trends for air quality and health linkages. This would also facilitate the policy adoption for health care intervention.

Keyword : Air quality, India, policy intervention, fuel quality, health valuation

In India, air quality related concerns were felt quite early. The first such concern was reflected in pre-independence era when Bengal Smoke Nuisance Act was enacted in 1905 and later Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act in 1912. In post, independence era (after 1947), though air pollution related issues were debated but its real impact was felt in seventies when United Nations Conference on Human Environment was held at Stockholm in June 1972. After long debate and deliberations, Parliament of India enacted the nation wide applicable act to provide legislative support for prevention and control of air pollution, under the article of 253 of the constitution “The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981” referred to as Air Act, 1981.

Later, The Govt. of India also passed a comprehensive Act for the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which covers various aspects of environment including air pollution. One of the mandates of Central Pollution Control Board under the Air Act, 1981 is to lay down standards for the Quality of Air and Emission Quantities. The primary aim of the ambient air quality standard is to provide a basis for protection of public health from adverse effect of air pollution and for eliminating or reducing those contaminant of air that are known or likely to be hazardous to human health and general well being. Further the State Pollution Control Boards are given powers lay down suitable conditions while granting permission to discharge air pollutants in the light of emission standards, notified through the rules framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 rules.

Current Status in India
Though many cities in India are plagued with poor air quality, major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai have attracted more attention as these two cities are considered political and economic capitals, respectively, for India. With a population of 14 millions (Census 2001), Delhi ranks among the largest cities of the world whereas Mumbai is not too far behind at 12 millions. Delhi, the capital of India, stands at the western end of the Gangetic Plain, has an arid climate most of the year. It gets high contributions from wind-blown dust. Other major contributing sectors in Delhi are transport and three power plants located nearby. On the other hand, Mumbai is a coastal city, with three sides surrounded by sea, harbour and Thane creek, respectively. Its climate is highly influenced by sea-land breeze phenomena along with four months extended monsoon. The city witnesses’ contribution of air pollution from traffic, industries (though it has shown declining trend), re-suspended dusts due to large scale construction/ demolition and refuse burning. Emission inventories prepared in some cities of India are based on emission factors of US-EPA: AP 42 (Air-Chief, 2004) and some limited data sources available in India. Some action plans have been prepared based on these Emission Factors based emission inventories. However, emission factors for many of the sources of Indian cities are not available. Therefore, large scale assumptions in emission inventories have skewed the interpretation and also action plans.

Major Interventions and Policy Changes
Role of judiciary

India witnessed a continuing decline in the quality of the environment in the 80s’ with a major incident of Bhopal gas leak killing more than 2500 people. This spurred the Central Government to adopt stronger environmental policies, to enact fresh legislation and to create, reorganize and expand administrative agencies. After the enactment of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1981, and as fallout of the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Parliament passed the Environment Protection Act (1986). This was an “umbrella” legislation designed to provide a framework for Central Government coordination of the activities of various central and state authorities established under previous laws, such as the Water Act and Air Act. It was also an “enabling” law, which articulated the essential legislative policy on bureaucrats, to frame necessary rules and regulations. After many committees, which worked primarily on Taj Mahal related air pollution problems during 1978-1982, finally Supreme Court constituted a committee in 1994 for a comprehensive view of the air pollution problems. Judiciary continues to play its role till date by defining the extent and coverage of air pollution prevention and control. Some of the major decisions pertaining to vehicular pollution control in last 12 years have come out from High courts and Supreme Court of India.

Of many policy interventions in last 25 years, most of them have been in last 10-12 years which have impacted all the sectors such as vehicles, industries and domestic. Figure 1 presents the major areas of interventions witnessed. Most of these interventions in recent times are related to Vehicle sector. Industries have been discouraged to expand or set up in city areas, which was very common in early 60-70s. Due to commercial development of cities and tighter norms for the industries within the city limits, industries started shifting outside. Remaining industries have changed fuel as also get better quality fuel. Domestic sector in cities and towns with population higher than 200,000 are mainly using LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). However, the coverage does not exceed more than 60%. Rest of the population still uses kerosene, biomass and coal.