The latest air quality reports suggest that the air quality in the majority of Maharashtra is improving. During the 2018-2019 period, it was noted that 65 per cent of the measurements fell into the “Good” or “Satisfactory” categories. These figures showed on average a 5 per cent increase in quality when compared to the 2016-2017 figures.This is an improvement when compared to previous years too, with a 50 per cent increase in quality.
The highlights of this report showed a 6 per cent reduction in the PM2.5 levels and a 9 per cent drop in the PM10 levels too. All regions were recorded as having no problems with sulphur dioxide (SO2). The permissible level of this gas is 50 µg/m3 which was not reached anywhere during that year, (2018-2019).
Levels of nitric oxide (NOx) were recorded at all 72 of the stations throughout Maharashtra state and found to exceed the recommended limits of 40 µg/m3 at 29 of them. Mainly in cities of Mumbai, Kalyan and Pune.
Other pollutants which were monitored were sulphur dioxide (SO2), lead (Pb), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3). Concentration levels of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) were found to be in excess of the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) recommended acceptable level of 60 µg/m3. In recent years recorded levels of RSPM have been unacceptable in the areas around Mumbai, Kalyan, Pune and Chandrapur. These are heavily industrialised areas which have seen an increase in vehicular movement due to an increase in trade.
The introduction of the National Clear Air Programme was announced earlier this year by the central government whose main aim is to reduce air pollution in India by reducing the most harmful PM2.5 pollutants. The implementation of the Bharat Stage VI, which is one of the most advanced emissions standards, was launched on 1st April 2020 and is seen by many as a positive step towards reducing air pollution in Maharashtra.
Daily checks on pollution levels are to be conducted by local authorities and the plating of trees and other greenery is actively encouraged. The State Government has also instructed the various local governments to take stricter control over household waste management. The formation of citizen groups has been established who can ensure local industries and factories are conforming to the anti-pollution measures laid down by the government. This is especially important when the factories are close to densely populated areas. Not only are they required to control the level of harmful exhaust gases which are emitted but to also treat their sewage to an acceptable degree before discharging it into the waterways.
The general public is also encouraged to take it on themselves to use fewer fossil fuels in their homes. And to adapt to the use of clean, renewable energy, where possible.
A recent study of historic air quality has been conducted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and it has reported to have found unsatisfactory levels of air pollution in 28 of the 73 sites it monitored. The ambient quality of the air at these sites was classified as being in the “very unhealthy or worse” category. The worst sites were found in Mumbai, followed by Thane, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Raigad. These are all industrial regions which produce large quantities of pollution from automobiles, dust generated by the construction industry and factories.
By contrast, 13 sites recorded “good” or “moderate “readings over the same period of time. These were at Thane, Kolhapur, Solapur, Sangli and Amravati districts. These districts do not have the same high volume of industry as the others do.
It is the intention of the state government to increase the number of monitoring stations in order to get a better idea of the air pollution in different areas of the state. Regional governors have been instructed to visit at least one monitoring station, every month.
Three towns/cities in Maharashtra state have very dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which is blamed on the emissions from the many factories and vehicles which are found in their respective areas. Measures are being taken to reduce the emissions produced by private cars but the large trucks and lorries seem to be ignored. PM2.5 and PM10 particulates are also higher than the recommended levels suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO). These particles mainly come from the construction industry, both from the demolition of the existing buildings to the cement and brick dust created by the new build. This can be reduced through shielding the area and spraying water over the area to prevent the dust from rising up into the air. Unfortunately, these measures are seldom used.
According to the latest figures released by IQAir .com, Chandrapur is the cleanest city with a US AQI index of 68, whereas the dirtiest city is Mumbai where the figure is recorded as 152. Levels of other pollutants in Mumbai are: PM2. 5 57 µg/m³, PM10 116.1 µg/m³, ozone (O3) 12.4 µg/m³ and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) 63.1 µg/m³.
There are many side effects of breathing poor quality air, they can include irritation to the skin, the eyes, nose and throat. A headache, fatigue and shortness of breath can also be attributed to poor quality air. Poor air also increases the possibility of developing asthma and allergies.
The worst possible pollutant is the microscopic particles known as PM2.5. With a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres they can easily be breathed in where they penetrate deep into the lung tissue and travel as far as the alveoli which are tiny air sacs found at the base of the bronchial tubes. From there they can enter the bloodstream and reach the heart. Prolonged exposure leads to breathing difficulty and the possible development of chronic respiratory disease.
PM10 are similar to PM2.5 but they differ in size. PM10 measure less than 10 micrometres, but are still able to be inhaled and cause health problems. They still find their way into the bodies’ airways where they irritate the nose and throat and cause coughing or difficulty in breathing.
The intake of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can also cause breathing difficulties because it prevents the blood from getting the level of oxygen it needs to function properly.
Ozone (O3) is frequently found in polluted air. Breathing this can cause pain in the chest, coughing and inflammation of the airways amongst others. It can reduce the functioning capacity of the lungs and it can also harm lung tissue. Ozone has been proven to exacerbate emphysema asthma and bronchitis, which leads to increased medical care.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is a colourless, odourless gas which is mainly produced from the burning of fossil fuels. Heating appliances and diesel-powered vehicles produce a large per cent of the sulphur dioxide found in the air. Coal and charcoal which is burnt as a form of cooking fuel at home lead to high levels of this gas, inside the home. Industrial processes such as aluminium smelting steel making and the manufacture of fertiliser are also contributors to airborne sulphur dioxide. This chemical causes respiratory problems such as bronchitis, aggravates asthma and breathing difficulties. It has also been linked to cardiovascular disease.
As would be expected of a state of this size, it has the largest network of roads throughout all of India. In 2011 the total length of highways was nearly 270,000 kilometres, which includes both the national highways and the state highways.
Buses are provided by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) which are both reliable and economical to use. They are the preferred mode of transportation for many people, especially if travelling between cities. Other forms of transportation include metered taxis and auto-rickshaws.
The average speed attained during a trip is relatively low at 50-60 km/h. This is mainly due to the huge amount of vehicles on the road at any one time.
Trains also play a huge role in the movement of both people and freight. There are 2 main terminals in Mumbai which provide services for both long-distance travel and local journeys.
There are also airports in all the major cities in Maharashtra as well as two international ports in Mumbai and a further 48 ports of varying sizes throughout the rest of the state.
Many of the public buses are older vehicles that create a large amount of airborne pollution but over the last decade, the operators have been phasing out the older vehicles and replacing them with cleaner, more fuel-efficient ones.
In Mumbai, new legislation prevents vehicles older than a certain age from entering the city centre in an attempt to reduce pollution.
A new expressway has been built between Puns and Mumbai which bypasses both cities thus freeing up the road network with the metropolis.
The Indian government recognise the problem India face with air quality is as actively doing something about it.