The second phase of the road-rationing scheme faces its big test Monday but results from Saturday, the day two of the plan, are far from encouraging.
Air pollution not only spiked across Delhi on April 16 but was also three times higher than it was before the launch of round two at some places. The Energy and Resources Institute data, made available to HT, once again calls into question the effectiveness of the radical measure in cleaning Delhi’s toxic air.
Levels of the fine particulate matter were way above the safety standard at most places, the data shows, with experts blaming high pollution on low wind speed.
Concentration of PM2.5 —particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns, which can penetrate deep into lungs and cause respiratory and cardiac problems — at Anand Vihar in east Delhi was 168 micro gram per cubic metres. On April 12, the reading was 55 against the country’s safety standard of 60µg/m3. WHO considers 25µg/m3 level to be of good quality.
PM2.5 levels are a worry because these particles, released by vehicular and industrial emissions, are so tiny that most of the masks available in the market can’t block them.
RK Puram in south Delhi saw pollution levels double at 151 µg/m3 against 74 µg/m3 on April 12. Concentration of PM2.5 in Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi was again 151 µg/m3 against April 12’s reading of 41.
The rise in pollution was due to low wind speed, said Teri’s Sumit Sharma who led the monitoring team. “Last week, air pollution dipped due to high wind speed, which results in dispersion of pollutants,” he said.
Teri is collecting daily data from four of the six Delhi Pollution Control Committee monitoring stations and is also monitoring another five locations for air quality.
Hindustan Times’ real-time air quality map shows pollution was down on April 11, a windy day. The levels, however, started rising after April 11 and peaked on April 14. Five out of the six stations, recorded a slight improvement on April 15.
Calls and text messages to Kulanand Joshi, special secretary, environment, Delhi government went unanswered.
“It will be interesting to assess the pollutant concentrations with the start of next week,” Sharma said. After an extended weekend, schools and offices will open on Monday, the first real working day of the second phase of the scheme which allows only odd-numbered cars on odd days and even on even days. The second phase ends April 30.
The Delhi government was forced to take the extreme measure for the first time in January as pollution levels touched alarming levels in the city, which has the dirtiest air in the world.
The success of the scheme in reducing pollution is open to debate. Though vehicular emissions are big contributors to air pollution, other factors such as construction work and dust also play a role. Moreover, two-wheelers have again been left out despite the fact they are bigger emitters of pollutants than cars.