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Chembur of commerce... & pollution

The Times of India

Simit Bhagat | TNN

Mumbai may be the commercial capital, but the impressive growth fails to hide the grim realities of the toll on the environment. Nowhere is this more evident than the suburban region of Chembur, where pollution levels have soared.

Several decades after Chembur was planned, a survey by IITDelhi along with the ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) revealed some worrying facts. It found that as many as 88 industrial clusters in the country — Chembur being 44th on the list — were highly polluted. The comprehensive environment pollution index (CEPI) of the area was found to be a very high 69.19.

The report, however, didn’t come as a surprise to lakhs of Chembur residents, who share their neighbourhood with major polluters like chemical factories and refineries.

Besides the 110-hectare Deonar dumping ground and unauthorized slums, vehicular pollution and construction activities have all contributed to the soaring pollution levels.

Dr Indrayani Gupta, senior scientist at NEERI, which had carried out an air monitoring survey in 2007, said, “We found that there were high levels of particulate matter around the Mahul area. The levels were way above the normal mark and even today things have not changed.”

Shockingly, municipal records reveal that over 25% of the deaths registered in Chembur over the past two years were due to respiratory problems. In contrast, the figure for Matunga area, 8km from Chembur, was only 0.41%.

Dr Neelam Rane, member of Smoke-Affected Residents Forum that filed a PIL against the dumping ground, says, “Chembur has been known as a gas chamber and people would even avoid marrying off their daughters to residents of the area.” A survey by KEM Hospital’s environmental pollution research centre revealed that a significant number of residents near the dumping ground had impaired lung function, persistent cough and asthma.

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