Massive coal use in Mumbai’s industrial clusters worsening city’s air quality: CSE study

Inaction may lead to Mumbai’s air turning as toxic as Delhi’s, warn experts

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 15 February 2021

Mumbai is gradually losing its coastal city trait of enjoying clean air through the year and the massive use of coal by its industries could be a major culprit, found a new study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit.

The factories in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) burn two million tonnes coal every year, the report released on February 15 said.

Out of the 13 industrial areas bordering Mumbai, CSE has done an in-depth assessment of four: Trans-Thane Creek (TTC), Taloja, Ambernath and Dombivali. They cover about 70 per cent of the industries operating in MMR.

The study has analysed and estimated the air pollution load from various industrial sectors. An indicative ambient air quality monitoring for particulate matter was also conducted to calculate exposure of locals to the pollutants.

TTC a hotspot

TTC was the most polluting, contributing about 44 per cent of the total load from the studied areas. It was followed by Taloja Industrial Area with a contribution of about 26 per cent.

Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution unit, CSE attributed the high pollution levels to rampant use of solid, dirty fuels like coal and agro-based fuels, and furnace oil. 

TTC has the highest consumption of coal- and agro-based fuels, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the coal and 70 per cent of agro-residues consumed in the areas studied.

“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,” said Yadav. 

The chemical sector, which uses about 3.1 million tonnes of fuels every year, was found to be a major polluter. It contributed close 72 per cent of the total load in the region, the study said.

Medium and small enterprises (MSME) were found to be bigger contributors to air pollution, observed the study.  

Dombivali residents were the most exposed to pollution, as analysed by CSE’s indicative monitoring of particulate matter (PM). Poor road infrastructure and high, uncontrolled pollution from surrounding industries could be the reasons for the high PM content.

Patalganga industrial area in Navi Mumbai (near Panvel) had the least exposure.

Way ahead

Against the backdrop of the challenges outlined for the industrial sector, CSE has developed a comprehensive action plan for the MMR. The highlights:

  • The shift in industries from conventional polluting fuel (coal, furnace oil, etc) to cleaner and non-polluting fuel (PNG, electricity) should be expedited
  • Policy to incentivise use of clean fuel introduced. Cleaner fuels like biomass and natural gas need to be less expensive. Removal of VAT on natural gas and inclusion of natural gas under GST would be positive steps
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the ambient air should be continuously monitored in areas where chemical industries are predominant
  • Air toxics emissions inventory and control plan should be developed Identify and monitor toxics and assess health risk through exposure modeling
  • Sector-specific pollution assessment study for chemical industries should be developed
  •  A unique strategy of cross-regional inspection as already devised and implemented by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board(MPCB) in Taloja can be replicated in other regions. Inspection of industries should be done by MPCB officers drawn from other regions.
  • Mechanism for penalties for the MSME sector for not instaling and using air pollution control devices should be created
  • Infrastructure should be well maintained and need assessments for development of roads and drainage lines conducted
  • Subsidies for purchase of air pollution control devices (APCD), particularly for small- and medium-scale units should be provided
  • The possibility of a common solvent recovery plant in chemical clusters and common steam generation units for industrial sectors cluster can be explored
  • Non-attainment criteria for cities within which industries are located should be modified
  • Policy-level intervention is needed for upcoming industrial areas to ensure presence of adequate buffer zones along the periphery of the industrial areas, so as to clearly demarcate the boundaries of residential and industrial areas

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.