In the last few months, New Delhi has been at the receiving end for its abysmal air quality.
While this has been the case for quite some time now, the issue became a talking point before United States President Barack Obama’s visit in January. This was because the US embassy bought 1,800 portable indoor air purifiers for the dignitary, his team and their staff.
Reports said that the embassies of the US, Japan and Germany were contemplating a reduction in the three-year standard tenure for their diplomatic staff to two years because of concerns over poor air quality.
Under attack from all sides, the Centre finally reacted, rather took cover behind a new monitoring protocol.
On Wednesday, it said that the environment ministry along with the earth sciences ministry, has put in place a unified system of air quality monitoring in the city to ensure authenticated air quality information to the public.
Now a Standard Operating Procedure for data validation, analysis and dissemination will be followed by the Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and India Meteorological Department.
An environment ministry official told the Wall Street Journal that the goal of the new procedure was to counter “irresponsible media reporting about pollution”, adding that the media were focusing wrongly on real time data on pollution and using them to hype the city’s problems with air quality.
The Centre is also mulling restricting the entry of diesel vehicles in Delhi’s markets. This is a welcome move but along with it should quicken the pace of constructing the east and west expressways so that vehicles that are not Delhi-bound can bypass the city.
Moreover, the government needs to find ways to curb the rising popularity of diesel vehicles.
While the citizens are concerned about the air quality, there seems to be a lack of political will in cleaning up the air: The budget failed to make any allocations or fiscal measures to control air pollution.
The least it could have done was to use excise duty on petrol and diesel to fund the implementation of superior quality fuel (Euro IV and Euro V) instead of allocating it for developing roads.
Taxing SUVs could also have helped reduce dependence on private vehicles and create a fund for public transport instead.