Transport sector: The top polluter in Mumbai

Mumbai: There are 41 lakh vehicles in Mumbai, 26 lakh of them being two-wheelers. Not just noise pollution during traffic snarls, these vehicles are also the biggest reason for air pollution in the city. As per the latest source estimation analysis for PM 2.5 (particulate matter) pollutants in Mumbai, vehicular emissions have nearly doubled in the last four years. Under the current Covid-19 situation, pollution has become one of the major worrying factors.

According to an analysis conducted by the System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting & Research (SAFAR), the PM 2.5 from the transport sector for 2019-20 is 30.5%, which stood at 16% in 2016-17. This is fast downgrading the city’s already poor air quality.

The air we breathe has suspended particulate matter (PM) of different sizes. Many of these are complex mixtures of dust, pollen, soot and smoke and are clearly hazardous. Of this, PM 2.5 (with diameter not more than 2.5 micrometre) is considered to have a significant impact on health as it can stay in the air for days or weeks, and is small enough to invade the lung airways.

As per latest figures, the four RTOs of Tardeo, Andheri, Wadala and Borivali registered 84,373 vehicles between January and June this year. These include 68,034 vehicles running on petrol and 7,379 diesel vehicles. In 2017, there were 2.68 lakh vehicles registered in these four RTOs, of which over 2 lakh ran on petrol and close to 29,000 on diesel. In 2016-17, the total number stood at 30.69 lakh, while the number was 20.28 lakh in 2011-12.

As per SAFAR, the contribution to PM 2.5 emissions from different sectors between 2019 and 2020 was 30.5% from the transport sector, 18% from industries and power sector, 15% from residential burning, which includes residential cooking in households and slums, trash burning, cow dung burning, emissions from street vendors and wood burning.

Dr Gufran Beig, senior scientist and founder project director of SAFAR said, “In the past five years, the transport sector has shown a steep rise in contribution to PM 2.5 pollution in Mumbai. This is a combination of both rise in the number of vehicles and snarls at junctions.”

The other pollutants in the PM 2.5 category include wind-blown dust (15%) and other sources (21.5%), including municipal solid waste (MSW) plants, MSW open burning, crematoriums, aviation sector, incense sticks and brick kilns, to name a few. A similar source estimation for PM 2.5 pollutants by SAFAR in 2016-17 had shown transport accounting for 16%, with industry and power sectors being the biggest contributors at 36%. Other sources included residential burning at 27%, and wind-blown dust at 21%.

In Mumbai, new industries or power plants are not being set up any longer, but vehicles continue to grow in numbers, said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, the Centre for Science and Environment.

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal