MPCB Seeks to Shift Mumbai's AQI Monitors to ‘Cleaner’ Areas: Report

MPCB officials claim that SAFAR monitoring systems do not accurately represent Mumbai's ambient air quality.

Climate Change
3 min read
Hindi Female

As Mumbai's air quality levels have been consistently measuring 'poor' to 'very poor' for the last few weeks, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has sought to relocate nine of the System of Air Quality Research and Forecasting (SAFAR) monitoring stations to 'cleaner' areas of the city.

According to a Hindustan Times report, MPCB officials claim that SAFAR monitoring systems do not accurately represent Mumbai's ambient air quality.

Aside from the nine SAFAR stations, the MPCB also operates 11 continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations (CAAQMS) in the city. The CAAQMS usually records lower levels of AQI as compared to the SAFAR monitoring systems.

Allegations of the inaccuracy of SAFAR systems were disputed by senior officials from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune (IITM).

IITM is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of earth sciences, which is responsible for overseeing the operations of SAFAR in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Pune.


SAFAR Monitors Are Placed in High Emission Areas, Say Officials

A meeting was recently held between the MPCB and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the latter to push forward their request for the relocation of the SAFAR monitoring systems.

The systems are currently located in BKC, Chembur, Worli, Colaba, Bhandup, Andheri, Borivali, Malad, Mazgaon, and Navi Mumbai.

MPCB claims that the SAFAR monitors are placed near high traffic emissions areas and have thus been giving an inaccurate reading of Mumbai's overall AQI, the report said.

An engineer from the BMC's environment department said that the civic body will be verifying whether the monitors are actually placed in high emission areas.

No Need to Shift Monitors: Experts

The MPCB is under heavy scrutiny due to the rising pollution levels in Mumbai. On 16 January, Mumbai's air quality was recorded to be worse than that of Delhi. While the AQI level in Delhi was 242, which falls under the 'poor' category, the AQI in Mumbai on the same day was recorded to be 306, which is considered 'very poor'.

Both cities have SAFAR monitoring systems - Mumbai has seven while there are eight in Mumbai.

This, despite the AQI recorded by the Central Pollution Control Board shows that the air quality in Delhi is still much worse than in Mumbai, especially in terms of PM2.5 and PM10 levels.

Sunil Dahiya, an analyst from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), told the newspaper that increased traffic and construction may be responsible for the higher pollution levels.


Dahiya said traffic intersections or localities with a high emissions load "are important areas for monitoring."

“Playing the numbers game isn’t going to help anyone. There is something seriously worrying about Mumbai’s air pollution scenario, and authorities need to investigate urgently."
Sunil Dahiya

He further said that it was concerning that Mumbai's AQI levels are now within the same range of Delhi because Mumbai has a high rate of dilution.

MPCB Under Fire for Decision to Relocate SAFAR Monitors 

The MPCB has received heavy criticism over their decision to relocate SAFAR monitoring systems to 'cleaner' areas from environmental experts and officials, including former Maharashtra Minister of Environment Aaditya Thackeray.

“Air pollution in the city is visibly bad and we can feel its effects. People who can afford to leave town in search of cleaner air are indeed doing so," he said.

"Sadly, nobody from the current government seems to be bothered. The Mumbai Climate Action Plan, which we launched last year and which draws out a practical roadmap to mitigate air pollution, seems to have been shelved without a thought.”
Aaditya Thackeray

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