Kandivali resident Praful Palkar has been contacting the local civic staff and using social media to report incidents of open burning of garbage over the past few years at Ganesh Nagar slums in Kandivali (west). While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) have replied to Palkar’s grievances on a few occasions, the problem is yet to be resolved.
Environmentalists and experts say that garbage burning is hazardous to health and also deteriorates the air quality of an area.
"Commendable efforts are needed to protect the environment of the financial capital of India. This burning goes continues 24x7 and has been going on for years. Concerned agencies, ministers and the government are all sleeping over it. This is absolutely shameful, said Palkar"
Sharing the videos and photos of garbage burning Palkar tweeted: "This is live garbage and plastic burning behind Ganesh Nagar slums, Kandivali West, Mumbai 64. Absolutely no action by any of the authorities."
According to the BMC’s Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, the burning of garbage or waste is prohibited on landfill sites, public spaces and other areas. In December 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered a nationwide ban on the open burning of garbage with a penalty of up to Rs 25,000, citing it as a major source of air pollution.
However, the ground reality is a different picture. “There are multiple instances of open burning in the stretches in many places across Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) as well. It happens inside compounds so we don’t know what exactly is being burnt. It’s a frequent occurrence throughout the year,” said Aman Prabhu resident of Marine Lines.
Along with organic biomass from households and agriculture, roadside garbage dumps contain a high volume of plastic. Burning plastic is particularly hazardous, releasing harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and arsenic which not only lead to respiratory disorders but also cancer, liver and immunity disorders, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Localized air pollution sources kill people even though they may not increase the overall AQI level of a larger area to ‘severe’ levels due to weather patterns. Burning plastic is especially toxic and can cause respiratory disease, cancer, liver failure and other diseases. The ICMR Report contains shocking data about premature air pollution-related deaths in Maharashtra, at 1,39,118 people comprising 16.7% of overall deaths. Maharashtra, at 1.4 lakh, has the second-highest air-pollution related deaths in India.
Gufran Beig, meteorologist and project director, System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) explained, " Garbage burning issue in Mumbai and MMR are similar to the stubble burning issue in Delhi and other states. The issue does not affect the air quality much during summers. However, during the onset of winter or when the temperature is cooler and humidity is high, garbage burning deteriorates air quality. During such weather when the temperature is low, particles from trash burning remain stagnant in the air and affects the air quality. These practices need to be discontinued."
Bhagwan Kesbhat, Founder of Waatavaran Foundation said, "The issue is becoming a health emergency. We have on numerous occasions written to the Panvel Municipal Corporation about the problem asking them to act. However, trash burning and industrial emissions continue."
Watavaran has last year in December suggested setting up Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations in Panvel to make sure real-time data is available along with creating a ‘Clean Air Action Plan’ focusing on Panvel. “It's important to check the industrial emissions, manage road dust pollution and also, make the entire Panvel region a ‘Zero Waste Burning’ city to reduce emissions and improve air quality. This should also be practised in Mumbai too and BMC needs to take stringent measures to control this. The issue directly impacts the health of little kids."
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