Mumbai, beware! The list of most polluted industrial clusters in the country, which were announced on Thursday, figures five in and around the city. Domivli, Navi Mumbai, Tarapur, Chembur and Pimpri-Chinchwad are names that appear in the top 50 most polluted areas out of the 88 areas identified by the Union environment and forest ministry.
The areas have reached their top level in terms of air, water and land pollution. And, the worst is that all the five clusters have reached critical levels of pollution, which has forced the Centre to put on hold expansion in these areas.
Chembur, which ranks 46 in the list, with a comprehensive environment pollution index (CEPI) of 69.19 has chemical industries, a power plant and refineries that have severely affected marine life in Mahul creek.
At the Mahul creek, the worst-hit have been the fishermen. About a decade ago, Waman Koli, a fisherman from Mahul, used to net over 300kg fish every day at the Mahul creek but today the average daily catch is around 50kg. The contamination of water at Mahul has forced Koli to rethink his occupation to earn his livelihood. Koli now doubles up as a guide to bird watchers who visit Mahul creek supplement his income.
The marine life at Mahul has ceased to exist due to the pollution from the nearby industries.
“The pollution has not only killed all the fish but also also threatens to destroy the creek,” Koli said.
The industrial pollution along with vehicular pollution and pollution due to continuous construction activity in Mumbai can prove to be disastrous for the city. “Mumbai is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and pollution in the surrounding areas has very high impact on general health of people,” Debi Goenka of Conservation Action Trust, said. “It is surprising that government is still allowing expansion of industrial units such as Tata Power plant, which was allowed to add one more unit.”
Chembur residents, who have chemical factories and refineries as their neighbours, have been complaining about the pollution for a long time. Frequent breathing problems that the residents have to bear are being ignored by the authorities.
The effects of pollution due to the industries at Tarapur have also adversely affected the ground water resources in the region. “There is no way the pollution control board can check the levels of pollution with the acute crunch of effective machinery to monitor the industries,” Goenka said.
The chemical industries are the most disastrous as chemicals from different factories mix and form another chemical. “This is something even more serious as no one knows its effects on the soil, ground water and the water bodies in which it is released. All these violations are going unchecked as the state government agencies are least bothered,” Goenka added.
According to Kishor Rithe of Satpuda Foundation, a NGO working for the betterment of environment, the industries have a dangerous effect on air, soil and life of humans, plants and animals around it. Heavy and carcinogenic metals like arsenic, mercury, which are released by the industries, adversely affect human health. “The chemical effluents discharged from factories are no less dangerous than green house gas (GHG) emissions.
GHG affect the climate and chemical effluents destroy the soil, ground water resources and the plants in the area,” Rithe said.