Will the ban on open garbage burning reduce pollution in Mumbai?

The BMC banned open-air garbage burning citywide due to frequent declines in the city's air quality index (AQI) to the 'poor' category.

Mumbai is facing a significant challenge with garbage dumping and burning, adversely affecting the city’s air quality this year.

To address the escalating air pollution, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently imposed a ban on open-air garbage burning citywide. This action came on the backdrop of the air quality index (AQI) frequently deteriorating to the ‘poor’ category.

Under the Guidelines for Air Pollution Mitigation, endorsed by Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal, the BMC emphasised a complete prohibition on open burning within its geographical jurisdiction, especially at garbage dumping grounds and potential sites for trash incineration.

Garbage disposal

Disposal is a critical part of managing waste. The BMC gathered around 6,385 metric tons of garbage daily from 24 municipal wards between 2021-2022, marking a 15% increase from the previous year. However, segregation mostly occurs in residential areas and gated communities only. 

For instance, in Dharavi, waste is not sorted due to lack of proper collection and awareness. As a result, people burn the waste, polluting the air and posing serious health risks by creating cancer-causing substances called carcinogens. In informal settlements, waste segregation suffers due to the lack of awareness, leading to widespread burning of waste.

Since the slum belt comprises cramped lanes, the BMC dumpers are unable to gain access in most areas in Dharavi and other settlements in Mumbai. For the last 10 years, the local civic ward office have been taking the help of NGOs and self-help groups. Workers go door-to-door for most of the daily waste collection and then deposit the waste at a BMC garbage collection point.

Read more: Air Pollution: More blue days than blue skies in India’s cities

Effect on air quality

In recent times, Mumbai has witnessed worsening pollution levels. It showed a significant 45% increase in PM 2.5 particles during October this year compared to the corresponding period the previous year, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The rise in PM 2.5 levels, crucial indicators of fine particulate matter in the air, is primarily attributed to various factors. Garbage burning, emissions from vehicles, and combustion processes are the primary contributors to the heightened PM 2.5 concentrations. 

However, another important factor contributing to air pollution in Mumbai is the ongoing construction work all over the city. Recent reports highlight a significant rise in construction activities in both the BMC area and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). There has been a 68% increase in BMC area construction since 2022 and a 142% increase since 2021.

With over 11,000 construction sites for private buildings and ongoing public projects like the Metro, Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), Navi Mumbai Airport, roads, and other utilities, the construction industry has become a major source of dust emissions in the city.

This uncontrolled dust emissions, especially near residential areas, poses health risks, especially for vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and individuals with lung diseases and related conditions.

 AQI monitoring chart
Garbage burning, emissions from vehicles, and combustion processes stand out as the primary contributors to the rise in air pollution. AQI monitoring chart by SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecast and Research). Pic: SAFAR

Previous stories 

As solid waste management and disposal and been one of the top factors contributing to the surge of air pollution in the city, let us revisit some of our previous stories that shed light on this critical issue.

Mumbai’s no.1 source of trash: Food waste

Food waste comprises of more than 70% of the total waste each year, says the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s latest Environment Status Report (ESR). Decentralising of waste – managing the waste at its source instead of taking it to landfills – is the ’need of the hour’ suggests the latest report on civic issues by Praja Foundation.

Link: https://citizenmatters.in/mumbais-no-1-source-of-trash-food-waste-50616

Explainer: Segregating waste manually to minimise the burden on landfills

Segregating waste generated in our homes and residential communities could be one of the first steps we take as responsible citizens. When dumping grounds catch fire, harmful gases engulf the surrounding areas. In 2016, the Deonar dumping ground caught fire and a large portion of the city was covered in toxic fumes.

Link: https://citizenmatters.in/explainer-segregating-waste-recycling-landfills-32440

What the rest of Mumbai can learn from Parel’s waste management model

The report gives a comprehensive overview of the performances of all the wards in Mumbai. Parel and neighbouring areas, which fall under the F South (F/S) ward, has best or second best performance in most of the categories making the best ward overall in terms of solid waste management.

Link: https://citizenmatters.in/what-the-rest-of-mumbai-can-learn-from-parels-waste-management-model-50495

Photo story: Inside a dry waste segregation centre in Mumbai

In Mumbai, the Dry Waste Segregation Centre (DWSC) work in partnership with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and organisations involved in waste management. The BMC provides the space and vehicles for the centre. An NGO then takes over, overseeing the dry waste collection, employing waste pickers and sorters, and sending the collated dry waste to respective recyclers. 

Link: https://citizenmatters.in/photo-story-dry-waste-segregation-centre-mumbai-36557

Have you seen any open air garbage burning in your neighbourhood? Was any action taken? Please share your experiences or photographs with us at mumbai@citizenmatters.in.

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