Mumbai records ‘very poor’ air quality, experts say city on brink of pollution crisis


According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board, as of the evening of 19 October, the city of Mumbai had an average AQI (air quality index) score of 156 while New Delhi was at 121. The financial capital has been waking up to a thick blanket of smog owing to a rapid increase in construction activities. According to experts, the situation could worsen, setting the stage for a dangerous winter season.

Several ongoing infrastructure projects in the city, as well as large-scale building construction and demolition works, have caused a surge in dust particulate pollution in the air, impacting the health of people. “A combination of high moisture and dust is caused due to the multiple redevelopment and construction projects that are operational across the city,” the India Meteorological Department (IMD) scientist Sushma Nair said. “There is moisture, anti-cyclonic wind circulation which does not allow the wind to ascend. The anti-cyclone is right over Mumbai,” she added.

Earlier this year, a policy-influencing think tank called Mumbai First suggested a number of measures that Mumbai’s authorities can undertake to address the situation. Among the key solutions provided by the think tank include stopping open refuse burning and landfill site burning, tackling road dust from paved and unpaved roads, controlling emissions from bakeries and crematoria, etc. “The only way to reduce air pollution and increase air quality in urban areas is to reduce emissions at the source, adopting eco-friendly technologies, usage of renewable energies, etc,” Murthy said.

In February this year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) adopted an action plan to impose stringent measures and control the air pollution levels in the city. The civic body had outlined guidelines that include installing air purifiers in the most crowded areas of the city.

Trends data from Google showed that the search interest for air purifiers was the highest in Maharashtra compared to the rest of India in the past seven days. Shopping websites such as the delivery giant Amazon are providing attractive discounts on air purifier products as concerned citizens are snapping up the product to enhance indoor air quality ahead of the festive season.

“Mumbai needs to implement dust management, as there is a lot of construction being undertaken in the city at the moment and that is contributing significantly towards air pollution in the city,” said Rishi Aggarwal, founder of the Mumbai Sustainability Centre.


  • In 2023, aerosol pollution in Maharashtra is anticipated to move from its current “vulnerable” orange zone to the “highly vulnerable” red zone.
  • High aerosol amounts include particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) consisting of sea salt, dust, sulphate, black and organic carbon. If inhaled they can be harmful to people’s health.
  • Aerosol optical depth (AOD) is the quantitative estimate of the aerosol present in the atmosphere and it can be used as a proxy measurement of PM2.5.
  • Maharashtra currently falls under the orange category which is a vulnerable zone with AOD between 0.4-0.5.
  • However, rising aerosol pollution is expected to push the AOD higher than 0.5 to enter into the most vulnerable (red) zone. The values of AOD range from 0 and 1. 0.