Combating Delhi’s toxic air is possible but it needs a strong political will to take a few bold decisions and make changes at the micro-level.
It could start with decongesting the entire National Capital Region (NCR), having uniform green regulations across greater Delhi along with a comprehensive plan to manage dust and stringent green norms for vehicles.
The expert consulted by Hindustan Times to get rid of Delhi’s killer air said that decongesting Delhi should not mean building more flyovers and underpasses, whose ability to reduce air pollution has been questioned. Instead, the solutions should lead to providing people with a viable choices to select alternatives to personal transport.
“Most flyovers have reached their optimal level much before the estimated time,” says a study on decongesting Delhi done by the Urban Development ministry, while suggesting other methods such as creating space for walking, cycling and providing public transport within walkable distances of homes.
Parthaa Bosu, India director of Clean Air Asia, which has implemented projects across India for making public places walkable, said convenient last-mile connectivity was essential for the success of public transport systems.
The national capital needs a dust management plan with stringent penalties for violators, especially authorities that keep roads dug up for a long time and builders who fail to manage dust at construction sites. Dust contributes about 38% to Delhi’s pollution load.
Introducing mechanized cleaning of roads only at night as against the present practice of manual cleaning that escalates local air pollution is a must. A study by the environment department of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) had found that this was possible without severe additional costs.
Like most environment friendly cities in the world, Delhi needs decentralised environment management protocols. It means that Dwarka, Rohini, Greater Kailash and Mayur Vihar should have their own air pollution management plans with active public participation. There should also be air pollution management protocols for all authorities.
Anumita Roychowdhury from the Centre for Science and Environment said that phasing out polluting vehicles, stringent penalties for violating pollution control norms and leap-frogging emission norms for vehicles were the need of the hour.
Vehicles contribute about 40% to pollution. Studies show that one-third of the Capital’s children suffer from breathing ailments and air pollution reduces 3.2 years from one’s life in the national capital.
It also affects productivity of a person as it slows down cerebral activity. All this could be a thing of the past if Delhiites decide that electoral politics in the city-state will be decided on the basis of curbing air pollution.