Sixty years ago in December, London was engulfed with a toxic mix of dense fog and sooty black smoke for four days. Today Delhi faces a similar environmental disaster.
The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) for NCR on Monday submitted a report to the Supreme Court and said that pollution levels of Delhi have been worse than the great London smog of 1952.
London’s episode of polluted air is among the deadliest environmental disasters in recorded history.
The report said that levels of particulate matter and other gases on Saturday was at least 15 times more than the standard. On Saturday, the average PM2.5 levels touched 837.7 micrograms per cubic meters, as against the permissible levels of 60 micrograms per cubic meter.
“This (what was recorded on Saturday) is a level of pollution, which is higher than what was recorded during the London smog incident and certainly higher than what has been seen in Delhi ever,” the EPCA report read.
During the London smog, the levels of particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) consistently remained over the 500 mark. The level of sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen oxide (NO) also shot up and reached ‘severe’ levels.
“Delhi has been a cocktail of gases after Diwali. In the London smog, over 4,000 people died premature deaths. What we are facing now is also nothing less than an emergency situation,” said Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and member EPCA.
She also said that the government must treat the situation as a ‘public health emergency’.
The report blamed Delhi’s high pollution levels on a combination of factors — already high vehicle population, unchecked construction and road dust, garbage burning. This was made worse by the stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana and Diwali crackers.
The matter has been listed before the apex court for Tuesday.
The report also listed immediate measures which the government needs to implement to control the situation. These measures include strict enforcement of the environment compensation cess (ECC) on trucks entering the city, complete ban on garbage burning and the check on closing of thermal power plants.
“Delhi government has announced emergency actions but it is now time to ensure enforcement of these steps. If the pollution levels are not controlled in 48 hours then drastic steps, including odd-even without any exemptions and tighter restrictions on commercial vehicles, also needs to be implemented,” the report read.
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