Mumbais economic and commercial growth is being choked by its rapidly worsening air pollution, says a World Bank report. The report has cited loss of productivity and increased health problems as the grim cost that the nations commercial capital is today paying for its rapid development.
In a study titled Urban Air Quality Management Strategy: Greater Mumbai Report, the bank has estimated that Mumbais air pollution has caused approximately 2,800 cases of premature deaths, while the health damage costs are in the region of Rs 18 billion a year.
The reportprepared by a group of national and international environmental experts, government officials, non-governmental organisations, research institutes and industries under the aegis of the World Bankhas proposed an action plan consisting of urgent technical and policy measures to check pollution in Mumbai.
The report has called for existing smoke capacity regulations for diesel vehicles to be strictly enforced. In addition, it has suggested that lead-free gasoline should be made easily available at less than the market price of leaded gasoline. This would encourage consumers to switch to unleaded gasoline, with substantial attendant health benefits, the report pointed out.
Emphasising the need to establish and stringently enforce a standard for oil quality, the report has suggested that taxes could be used to set the price of oil according to its quality. The report also called for establishing more maintenance stations capable of carrying out annual or bi-annual inspections to enforce clean vehicle standards. Indian refineries also require modifications in order to produce low-sulphur diesel, the report noted.
Public awareness and participation are instrumental in bringing about policy change and environmental education to promote understanding of the linkages between pollution and health.
In this regard, the report said private sector participation through innovative schemes, such as accepting delivery from trucks that meet government emission standards, adopt-a-street campaigns and air quality monitoring displays is a must. The bank has warned that the megapolis will be confronted by a major environmental crisis unless these measures are rapidly implemented, specially in light of the rapid expansion of industries and a 103 per cent increase in the number of vehicles plying on Mumbais roads over the past decade.
The report has listed the transport sector as the chief culprit for Mumbais air pollution, followed by power plants, industrial units and domestic burning of wood and garbage.
Noting that the annual average concentration of air particulates known as Total Suspended Particles (TSP) had increased by nearly 50 per cent between 1981 and 1990, the report pointed out that pollutant concentrations in Mumbai often exceeded the World Health Organisations air quality guidelines as well as national guidelines.
The report said long-term exposure to high levels of these pollutants resulted in increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses, diminished lung functions and premature deaths from respiratory causes.
In addition, average concentrations of leadwhich have an adverse impact on blood pressure, the nervous system and kidneysdoubled from 1980 to 1987, while the incidence of nitrous oxidewhich causes lung damageincreased by roughly 25 per cent, said the study.
Only sulphur dioxide concentrations had declined as a result of the increased use of natural gas and low-sulphur content coal, said the report.