Air, water, greenery… pollution takes a toll


Windows closed, drapes drawn and straining to hear the volume on their TV — This is how the Bafnas spend New Year Eve every year. Living in a building adjacent to Khar Gymkhana, where loud music allegedly continues till 3 am, far beyond the deadline, they are left with little choice. “Dialing 100 to complain about the noise is, sadly, how I begin every year. We understand the need for nightlife or celebrations but why keep everyone else awake and irritable?” said Pankaj Bafna, a lawyer specialising in cyber crime.

With festivals increasingly becoming associated with loud music and 1,23,500 vehicles added to the city from April-November, Mumbaikars were subjected to alarming levels of air and noise pollution this year. “As big festivals are often backed by politicians, even the police cite helplessness when asked to take action. We have strong laws but implementation is the problem,” said Sumaira Abdulali, founder of Awaaz Foundation.

In the last week of 2013, the levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) recorded at Sion were 45 per cent and 122 per cent above acceptable levels. During Ganesh Chaturthi, Awaaz Foundation recorded noise levels of 123.2 decibels at Worli Naka, the highest ever they have witnessed in a decade and far noisier than a rock concert.

Through the year, activists and citizen groups have fought environmental violations and for changes in projects planned in the city to make them environment-friendly. But the defiance of governmental agencies to address or even acknowledge environmental concerns and their inefficiency in curbing violations could cause major damage to the city in the coming year.

It may be recalled that a 2005 Bombay High Court order gave mangrove areas on government land the status of “protected forests” and mangrove land under private ownership the status of “forests”. The protection given to mangroves on government land was upgraded when a GR in June 2013 declared the “protected forests” as “reserved forests”, where any activity is prohibited.

… contd.


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