Air pollution: BMC, MMRDA, Metro accused for flouting green norms – ET Infra

Mumbai is upgrading’ is a slogan locals are most familiar with when stuck in traffic jams due to a slew of ongoing infrastructure projects. But this “upgradation” is one of the major causes of air pollution that has engulfed the city. It took a phone call from the Prime Minister’s Office to wake up the local government about the city’s deteriorating air quality.

TOI has highlighted the ill effects of the proliferation of real estate construction projects across the city, but activists say public infra projects are another major source of air pollution. Government agencies claim they adhere to dust mitigation measures at all construction sites, but activists and opposition party leaders say these guidelines are not followed at most government project sites. Such worksites include those for the Coastal Road, road and bridge works by the BMC and the MMRDA, and multiple Metro lines by the MMRC and MMRDA too.

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Green activist Zoru Bhathena said, “The BMC accuses private construction sites for pollution, but the major cause of dust pollution is government infrastructure sites. The entire city is dug up and no agency is implementing any dust mitigation measures. Private construction sites operate only for 10-12 hours a day, but infra works like Metro go on 24xx7. Not one project has any dust or pollution mitigation measures. Every cement structure being made is leading to pollution.”

Lawyer and activist Godfrey Pimenta said that despite the underground nature of Metro Line 3 works, airborne dust levels appear notably higher compared to other localities.

Every construction site, be it government projects or private developers’ projects, continuously flouts air pollution norms, said activist D Stalin of the NGO Vanshakti. “Sprinklers and dust control curtains are absent. Dumpers carrying mud and debris from all sites pass through the city without any cover on transported material. Mud and dust are scattered from these uncovered dumpers all along the route. MPCB is a toothless tiger that lacks manpower and guts to initiate action against powerful urban development agencies like the MMRDA or the BMC.”

Calling into question the activists’ version, at least on the Coastal Road project, additional municipal commissioner Ashwini Bhide said air pollution is monitored regularly by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and laboratories approved by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). “For dust pollution at project sites, several measures are taken. Regular air monitoring is conducted on site at various locations. Regular water sprinkling is done on access roads to suppress dust by vehicular movements. Water sprinkling is done on dust or debris mounds to suppress dust particles. Green net covering is done on debris to control dust particles from blowing with the wind,” Bhide said.

But former Congress corporator Ravi Raja, who was opposition leader in the BMC, said air quality has deteriorated to such an extent that the BMC advised citizens to wear masks. “This advisory is fine but what exact measures is the BMC taking? Last year the city also witnessed poor air quality, but as usual they learnt nothing from experience. BMC administrators had talked about installing air purification devices to curb pollution. Crores of rupees were earmarked. So, what happened?”

Ulhas Mahale, deputy municipal commissioner (infrastructure) said the BMC was implementing basic pollution control measures at road work sites. “More detailed guidelines have been drafted and will be issued soon,” Mahale said.

Metropolitan commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee said, “MMRDA is implementing mitigation measures to control dust at construction sites like water sprinklers to control dust emissions. Vehicles carrying loose excavated material are covered with tarpaulin, and the material is stacked in a way that minimizes dust emission. The excavated material is disposed of at designated locations regularly. Batching plants are covered with a green net and sheet barricading to reduce dust.”

Susieben Shah, general secretary of the Malabar Hill Citizens Forum overseeing the Priyadarshani Park and Sports Complex on Nepeansea Road, noted a decline in the number of morning walkers, with many now preferring to visit after sunrise due to poor visibility caused by heightened pollution levels.

(With inputs from Richa Pinto)

  • Published On Oct 27, 2023 at 11:55 AM IST

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