Reported By: Mayuresh Ganapatye
Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta
Last Updated: March 16, 2023, 21:13 IST
Doctors say high levels of air pollution in Mumbai are driving up cases of respiratory illnesses in the city. File pic/AP
Dust particles are contributing to the air pollution and the state is taking immediate steps with new technology to prevent it, said minister Deepak Vasant Kesarkar in response
Concerned about hazardous air pollution levels in Mumbai, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Mihir Kotecha raised the issue in the Maharashtra assembly on Thursday demanding immediate action against responsible construction sites.
In his response, senior cabinet minister Deepak Vasant Kesarkar said the government would take immediate steps to curb the pollution and take action against the culprits.
In his speech, Kotecha said it is the right of the people to breathe fresh air in Mumbai. “Bronchitis, asthma, and TB have become rampant in the city due to the bad air quality. About 60 per cent of pollution in Mumbai today is due to construction sites. However, there is no monitoring mechanism from the government site. The DMC (deputy municipal commissioner), environment, in Mumbai is the only officer without staff who cannot control the situation,” the BJP leader said.
Kotecha said that an officer of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in his constituency did not cooperate with the complaints related to pollution. “I made complaints about two construction sites in my area for adding to pollution and demanded a joint visit. But the officer did not budge. Is it a crime to demand a visit to the site? Would the government take any action against the official?” he asked in the assembly.
In another case, a contractor dumped all the dug soil and garbage on the footpath near Marathon Avenue where 5,000 families reside, he said. “I complained against the contractor to the pollution control board but in vain. Would there be any action against MPCB and BMC officials under the Climate Control Act?” Kotecha asked in the assembly. The BJP MLA added that in Singapore, the fine for air pollution is one lakh dollars per day and suggested the government impose a similar penalty in Mumbai.
Blaming the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Kotecha said it never took interest in curbing the pollution. On February 14, a media report said that Mumbai was the second-most polluted city in the world.
“The government replied in detail and said they are preparing a plan to prevent the situation. However, in January 2021, Mumbai witnessed PM 5.2 — nine times more than the WHO limit which was worrisome. The national green tribunal issued an advisory to the then state government suggesting measures like increasing the frequency of public transport. However, the then environment minister halted Metro work for 2.5 years. It also mentioned controlling dust from the construction sites and issuing shutdown notices to those not obeying compliances, periodic mechanised sweeping on roads, water sprinkling on roads, etc. But nothing happened,” he said.
Under the Centre’s national clean air programme, the state received Rs 3,600 crore but it did not spend this till February 2022, said the BJP leader. “When the government realised about unutilised funds, a tender of 200 electric buses was issued and later increased to 900, paving the way for corruption. I took a press conference and exposed the corruption forcing them to withdraw the tender. The previous environment minister has cheated Mumbai people,” Kotecha alleged.
In the reply, cabinet minister Kesarkar said the government is very serious about the issue and has set up a high-power committee. “Dust particles are contributing to the air pollution and the state is taking immediate steps with new technology to prevent it,” he said.
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