Mumbai air polluted largely by coal-powered industry, better tech and infrastructure needed: CSE report

mumbai-air-polluted-largely-by-coal-powered-industry,-better-tech-and-infrastructure-needed:-cse-report

Mumbai’s air quality is reportedly taking a huge dip, and the amount of coal being used in industrial sectors is the most significant contributor. Delhi-based non-profit organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) recently released a report titled Enhanced Strategic Plan Towards Clean Air in Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The report presents an analysis and estimate of air pollution load from various industries across four areas in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). These industrial areas are the Trans-Thane Creek (TTC), Taloja Industrial Area, Ambernath and Dombivali. A total of 13 industrials areas exist in and around Mumbai – Ambernath, Badlapur, Chembur, Dombivali, Kalyan–Bhiwandi, Mira-Bhayandar, Marol, Patalganga, TTC, Taloja, Vasai-Virar and Wagle estate.

The CSE study examined data about the fuel consumption of these industries, with a focus on particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollutants, to get an estimate of pollution load in the MMR. As per the European Environment Agency, ‘pollution loading’ is the amount of stress placed on an ecosystem by pollution, physical or chemical, released into it by man-made or natural means.

Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution unit, CSE told Down to Earth that the high pollution levels in Taloja is due to the use of solid, dirty fuels like coal and agro-based fuels, and furnace oil.

“Mumbai is a coastal region and so, is not expected to have very high levels of pollution. But with rapid industrial and infrastructural development, air quality of the region has started deteriorating. The city needs to wake up and take corrective actions, to avoid turning into a pollution pressure-cooker like Delhi,” Yadav added.

Fuel, consumption patterns in MMR industrial areas

The report highlights the key industries operating in the MMR: chemical (38 percent), engineering (36 percent), food and food processing (eight percent), textile (seven percent), construction (three percent), cold storage (one percent), pulp and paper (one percent) and other miscellaneous industries (six percent).

A total of 1,400 medium- and small-scale operational units in just the four industrial areas studied made up around 70 percent of all the industries operating in the region, the report says. Chemical, engineering and food processing (eight percent) industries were the key ones in Ambernath, Taloja and TTC. In Dombivali, chemical (38 percent) and engineering (37 percent) were the dominant sectors. While all sectors used other sources of fuel too, coal remained the most widely-used for energy.

Just 88 of the 1,389 industrial units of the four industries used PNG, as per the report. More than double that number – 196 units – used agro-based residues, and roughly five times that number – 419 units – relied on coal for energy. The annual average coal consumption is about two million tonnes while liquid fuel consumption is about 1.2 million tonnes and furnace oil is 0.2 million tonnes.

TTC was found to have the highest coal consumption – accounting for almost 60 percent of all the coal consumed in the studied area. TTC also contributed the most to pollution, at 44 percent, followed by Ambernath and Taloja, at roughly 24 and 26 percent, respectively. Taloja’s consumption of PNG was the relative highest, and Ambernath was found to have the highest liquid fuel consumption.

Choking Dombivali

In 2019, Dombivali along with Chembur and Navi Mumbai were identified as critically polluted areas (CPAs) by Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) assessments. The analysis found Dombivali, home to as many as 1,400 chemical companies, was the most polluted of the four industrials areas. A similar conclusion was arrived at by the CSE report, which found Dombivali and Kalyan the most polluted industrial areas in Mumbai. Dombivali, being the most populated area of those in the study, the poor air quality was also likely to affect more people.

Among the likely causes for Dombivali’s high airborne PM, the report cites road infrastructure, high levels of uncontrolled pollution from surrounding industries, etc. Fixing these issues is key to bringing the air pollution situation in MMR under control, the report points out.

Solutions

Along with the analysis of the situation, the CSE report also has a list of actions that can be taken to ensure that Mumbai can fix its air pollution problem. Here are some of its solutions.

While TTC and Taloja consume a significant amount of coal, there is scope for industries in these areas to switch to clean(er) fuels. Already, attempts are being made by industries in Taloja to shift to PNG, and those in TTC to use agro-waste or briquettes. TTC consumes nearly 70 percent of the total agro-residue consumed in MMR. Controlling PM emissions in TTC and Taloja, the CSE analysis said, can help in reducing air pollution in Mumbai and improving the quality of air as well.

Another measure the report recommends is to incentivize the switch to cleaner fuel and encouraging polluting industries to make necessary changes. The cleaner fuels also need to be less expensive, so the industries find the change equally if not more profitable, the report said. If an area or industry is not able to get PNG, CSE recommends that they not use high-sulphur fuel oil. Subsidies should be given to medium- and small enterprises to help them buy air pollution control devices while a proper mechanism is put into place to penalise medium- and large-enterprises for not doing the same.

It is also important to monitor Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and other toxins in the ambient air where chemical industries predominantly work, the report points out. Conducting checks and surprise visits to the industries to ensure compliance of the rules will ensure adequate follow-through, it added. A statement from CSE highlights that better infrastructure would also go a long way in addition to the use of technology, like better roads and drainage lines for public use that work more efficiently with less energy input.

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