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Air quality dips well ahead of winter as mercury rises

Mumbai’s overall Air Quality Index (AQI) has started fluctuating with rising mercury levels and it slipped into 115, which is moderate category, on the System of Air Quality Forecast and Research (SAFAR) dashboard. Multiple pockets in the suburbs showed poor AQI as well.

After the withdrawal of monsoon on October 10, the city has been witnessing a rise in the heat with average daily maximum temperature ranging from 32 to 34 degrees for a week.

Usually, the city starts to record poor AQI after Diwali and it continues till the end of winter. Mumbai’s AQI remains “good” throughout the monsoon season, starting from June till the end of October, as the suspended particulate matters get washed away from the lower atmosphere due to rain.

Between October 12 and 14, the city’s AQI slipped under moderate category, however, later during the weekend, the overall AQI of Mumbai came back to normal. Senior officials and activists have attributed this to the recent rise in temperature along with local factors such as vehicular emission and dust displacement.

“Due to the heat, dust doesn’t settle and remains suspended in the lower atmosphere for a longer time. This phenomenon affects the overall AQI level, since there is no rain now and the particulate matters can’t get washed away easily. Other factors such as vehicular emission and displacement of road dust also play a role,” Avinash Dhakane, CEO of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) told The Indian Express.

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The SAFAR app on Monday showed AQI levels in multiple pockets of Mumbai going down to “poor” category, with most of these pockets being in the suburban belt of the city.

According to the dashboard, on Monday, Andheri had the worst AQI of 307, followed by 300 in Mazgaon, 208 in Malad, 183 in Chembur, 159 in Borivali, 139 in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), 133 in Bhandup, 105 in Worli and 90 in Colaba. Navi Mumbai recorded an AQI of 259.

Bhagwan Kesbhat, CEO of Waatavaran Foundation, said that besides the weather pattern, there are other factors that aggravate the situation.

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“There are several areas across Kalyan, Navi Mumbai, Bhiwandi where open burning of garbage and scrap is done on large scale due to which the particulate matters often drift towards Mumbai due to air movement and in return deteriorates the AQI,” Kesbhat said.

“What we are seeing today is the result of combination factors such as moisture level, fog level, vehicular emission and open burning, which are polluting the air much ahead of the winter season,” he said.
According to SAFAR’s AQI monitoring chart, 0-50 is termed good, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor, 301-400 very poor and beyond 400 AQI is labelled as severe.

Of the 92 days between November 2022 and January 2023, Mumbai recorded poor and very poor AQI for 66 days, with experts and authorities attributing it to construction works that were ongoing in the city.

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