Delhi gasping: Trouble in the air for those walking, cycling

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 21, 2015 01:43 IST

Delhi is gasping for breath with the common man, who uses public transport and goes walking and cycling, getting exposed to air that is more toxic than surrounding environment monitored by pollution control bodies, a latest study has found.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) monitored air pollution levels in February to show the amount of pollution a common citizen is exposed to while travelling in mass modes such as buses, Metro, autorickshaws or while walking.

CSE’s Anumita Roychowdhury said, “Daily personal exposure to toxic air is significantly higher than the background ambient air pollution that is monitored by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) at the nearest official monitoring station. This is a serious risk to public health.”

It is ironical that public transport users, the majority in the city, who are part of the solution to the dangerous air pollution problem, themselves are vulnerable and victims of this highly toxic air. “This risk can be reduced only if a stringent clean air action plan is implemented,” she said.

A CSE analysis showed that exposure in all transport modes is very high. The average levels recorded are two-four times higher than the background levels reported by DPCC. Open modes like autorickshaws, walking and cycling have the highest exposure.

The centre released a priority action plan for the AAP government that includes pollution emergency action for smog episodes, and short and medium-term measures for more lasting and durable change to meet clean air standards.

Between October and February, Delhi had 12 smog episode days when severe levels persisted for three consecutive days. The number of days with severe pollution levels has remained consistently high all through. In December, 65 per cent days were in severe category; in January, it was about 47 per cent.

CSE director general Sunita Narain said AAP government had a huge task at hand. "We expect it to now lay down the priority action" to control pollution. "It’s shameful that the US is monitoring pollution here. We must show the world we can do it," she said.

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