The government’s plan to halve vehicles on the roads, coming at a time when the city has been suffering a series of bad air quality days since the beginning of November, may provide some much-needed respite from pollution, if implemented correctly.
Delhi has seen its worst air quality days during December over the past few years. And this year, the pollution in November was already higher than in December 2014.
Experts from the Centre of Science and Environment have warned that this year’s air quality in December will be much worse than last year since no steps have been taken to curb it. On Thursday, the non-profit outfit said there has been a “sevenfold increase” in Delhi’s air pollution since October.
“The situation is serious and we need drastic measures to control it. We had to begin somewhere and the government should not chicken out now. Since the government has some time, it should start looking for ways to improve the public transport system and start sensitisation programmes,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, CSE.
Delhi surpassed the Chinese capital, where air quality norms are more stringent, to become the world’s most polluted city according to the World Health Organisation.
In Delhi, a severe warning is issued only when the air quality reaches 400 (out of a maximum of 500 on the National Air Quality Index). But in Beijing a severe warning is issued at 300 and the megacity starts shutting schools and factories when the air quality goes beyond 300.
A study carried out in Beijing in 2008 after the even-odd policy was first implemented ahead of the Olympics showed that air pollution levels came down by 40%.
Meanwhile, the government also spoke about the need to improve public transportation, especially buses, to meet the challenge.
It also decided to shut down the Badarpur thermal power plant, one of the coal-based plants of the NTPC, and will write to the National Green Tribunal for the shutting down of thermal power plants around Delhi, such as the one in Dadri.
Other measures announced by the government include an order to use vacuum technology to clean roads, allowing entry of trucks into the city only from 11pm as against 9pm and adoption of stricter Euro VI vehicular and fuel emission standards by 2017.
The rest of the country plans to do so by 2019.
The government also plans to add school buses to add to DTC fleet when they are not on duty, request Delhi Metro to extend timings and close down MCD parking lots that add to traffic jam on the roads.