Poor air quality in Mumbai: Crackdown on construction sites begins

A day after Mumbai’s abysmal air quality caught the attention of the Prime Minister’s Office, civic administrator I S Chahal held an online meeting with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials and various stakeholders on Friday. In it, he ordered that anti-smog machines be installed at all construction sites in 15 days. Eventually, it will be mandatory to also set up air quality index (AQI) measuring systems. Civic officials have also been told to issue immediate stop-work notices if guidelines are not followed. 

For the past two days, the city’s pollution levels have been higher than Delhi’s. According to sources, on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), concerned about the development, got in touch with the Chief Minister’s Officer (CMO). Later, a CMO official told Chahal to strengthen the action being taken against 
the menace. 

A veil of smog envelopes Dadar on October 18. Pic/Shadab Khan

The BMC has decided to issue fresh dust-mitigation guidelines. One of them stipulates that iron sheets with a minimum height of 35 feet must be used around construction sites spanning an area of one acre or more. Apart from that, the entire site should be covered with a jute or green cloth.  The minimum height of these sheets on smaller plots must be 25 feet. Each construction site should also have a sprinkler system and water must be sprayed at least four to five times a day.

Instructions to officials

The civic chief, on Friday, gave specific orders to all authorities to ensure anti-dust measures are taken with regard to infrastructural projects. He has also ordered that they be vigilant when it comes to the air quality of areas where Metro-related work is going on. Any work that is likely to generate dust should be completely covered. The cutting of marble, stone, wood, etc, required for construction should be done in enclosed areas or under cover. 

The tyres of all vehicles must be cleaned before they leave construction sites. All the construction sites should have CCTV cameras to ensure that rules aren’t being flouted. The vehicles that dump debris on the road and on footpaths will be penalised heavily and their registration will be revoked. 

The BMC first declared guidelines for construction sites on April 1, but according to sources, they are not being strictly followed. Chahal has now asked officials to visit construction sites regularly and record footage of their visits. They have also been asked to act immediately against those who flout guidelines. The civic body decided to form 50-person teams at the ward level to enforce the rules.

Friday’s meeting was attended by Vikas Kharge, principal secretary, CMO; Praveen Darade, principal secretary, environment and climate change; Avinash Dhakne, member secretary of  Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB); Milind Borikar, chief executive officer and MHADA Mumbai Board; as well as all additional municipal commissioners, representatives of the MMRDA and developers’ associations.


“The Central and state governments have taken note of rising pollution levels and the BMC has been instructed to implement immediate measures,” Chahal said in the meeting, according to a release.He added, “Dust is a major factor behind the increase in air pollution. Although the construction business is a major component of the economy, measures must be taken to prevent the spread of dust. There is a need to take urgent and compulsory measures while coordinating among all the government agencies in Mumbai.”

He also instructed that the MPCB should hold an urgent meeting with other municipal corporations and related organisations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

“Efforts should be made by organisations to control air pollution caused by the big power, energy and gas projects in Mumbai. They should re-examine whether they have taken all the measures decided by the government. Pollution control systems at these project sites should be inspected via the BMC flying squad. The civic body should also ensure the quality of air in the vicinity of refineries in areas such as Mahul,” he said.

Chahal also directed that the agencies concerned implement the measures regularly and forcefully henceforth. Otherwise, they, too, will face action.

Dust in public places

The civic body’s road department team has been ordered by Chahal to focus on reducing dust while cleaning the road. Also, vehicle-based anti-smog machines must be deployed to at least 50 to 60 busy roads in Mumbai early every day. 

The civic chief also instructed that spraying should be done in the morning to prevent dust from accumulating.

Oct 20
Day meeting was held

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