Deonar fire: Traffic cops ordered to wear masks, as smog persists
As Mumbai and Navi Mumbai remained shrouded in smog well into the fourth day after a major fire at the Deonar dumping ground, the traffic police department issued strict instructions to all personnel to wear face masks to prevent any health issues.
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Environmental activist Sandeep Bangia took this picture of the continuing smog last evening, from his high-rise flat at Palm Beach, Navi Mumbai. He pointed out that as the smoke was rising, high-rise residents were forced to keep their windows shut all day
Doctors advise citizens to also wear masks, particularly while travelling. Meanwhile, the fire brigade yesterday continued efforts to control the smoke from the dumping ground, while the investigation is on to determine who is responsible for the incident.
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Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Traffic Police Milind Bharambe told this paper, “We have already provided around 3,500 face masks to our personnel and have asked them to compulsorily wear them. The air is already polluted, and the smoke from the dumping ground could lead to health problems. Not just traffic cops, but citizens should also wear masks to prevent any health hazards.”
Dr Om Srivastav, who specialises in infectious diseases, also recommended that people wear masks to avoid breathing problems, particularly patients with respiratory ailments. “People suffering from respiratory diseases like asthma should cover their faces while travelling and take proper medication to avoid any health issues,” he said.
Many have already started following this advice and are using masks or handkerchiefs to cover their faces, as Navi Mumbai resident Kunal Nikam witnessed while travelling on a Vashi local train. However, others said that even with the masks, they were facing problems.
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“The smoke is clearly visible on the road. Even though we cover our faces, while travelling, our eyes itch and this can result in an accident,” said Kharghar resident Shahbaz Ali Sayed, who travels to Mumbai every day on his motorbike.
Abdul Faiz Khan Badruddin (42), a resident of Baiganwadi, said, “I have developed a bad cough for three days and my BP was also high. The doctor has prescribed medicines.”
Residents from Chembur, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar, Navi Mumbai and other places are upset about the smoke and the problems it is causing them and blame it on the BMC.
“It is the BMC’s carelessness that has caused this disaster and health hazard for local residents. We can’t even get out of the house without covering our faces,” said Rajkumar Sharma, a social activist from Chembur who had filed a PIL in Bombay High Court in 2011 protesting the excessive dumping at Deonar.
KV Hiwrale, deputy chief fire officer of the fire brigade said, “Some three to four kids had started the fire. It was brought under control on Friday afternoon itself, but it started again. Even after we doused the fire, the smoke remains a health hazard. Our officials are on field to tackle this but we avoid working during night, the visibility is low.” He added that 14 fire engines, eight tankers, two water miles and 100 fire fighters were still trying to quell the smoke from the ground.
“People keep entering the dumping ground including ragpickers. Sometimes kids make mischief by burning the waste, resulting in huge fires. We found that there were no fire safety precautions in place, and have booked a few people, including the contractor for the dumping ground. However, he is not ready to cooperate and claims that his contract had ended a day before,” added Hiwrale.
Local Samajwadi corporator Rais Shaikh questioned why no alternatives were found for the contractor earlier if his contract had expired. “The city is facing this problem due to the incompetence of a few officials,” he said.
'Like a gas chamber'
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis yesterday expressed concern over the Deonar fire and the resulting heavy smog engulfing Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Noting that the fire released hazardous gases and increased the pollution levels, Fadnavis said if proper preventive measures were not taken, our cities could resemble gas chambers. “The situation could be similar to what was done by Hitler (whose regime built the infamous gas chambers for killing people),” he said.
Sandeep Bangia, Environmental activist, Navi Mumbai
We blame the BMC for destroying the environment of Navi Mumbai. Resident of high-rises, in particular, are the worst affected, since the smoke keeps rising higher, forcing us to keep our windows shut the whole day. We suggest people to avoid going out for a few days.