Delhi's air pollution levels remain a serious health risk despite government efforts and an emergency response is needed to meet desirable air quality standards in a time-bound manner, say experts based on data accessed from pollution watchdogs.
The levels of tiny particles in the atmosphere that carry toxins and go deep inside lungs continue to be three-four times the acceptable limits. Though the concentrations vary in different areas, the overall quantities are excessive and are actually increasing at several locations.
High levels of fine particles and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere - that can trigger serious respiratory illnesses and sudden death syndrome among infants - point to increased impact of vehicular pollution. What is worrying is that all the locations monitored have very high population density, indicating considerable public health risk.
"Vehicles need special attention as close to 60% of Delhi's residents live within the influence zone of vehicular emissions," said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director for research and advocacy at Centre for Science and Environment. "This will require stringent action to improve public transport, walking and cycling significantly, higher parking charges along with other restraint measures to reduce personal vehicle usage and traffic volume, and tighter emission norms for automobiles and fuels."
The data shows the average PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) levels at all locations in 2013 are four times higher than normal. The annual trend is mixed: while the quantity is increasing in some areas (Anand Vihar, Shahzada Bagh, Mandir Marg), the overall levels are stable but still very high.
Similar is the case with PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The levels are on the rise at RK Puram, Janakpuri, ITO, Shahzada Bagh, Nizamuddin, and Siri Fort. NO2 levels are going up at Civil Lines, Mandir Marg, Shahazda Bagh and Shahdara.
PM10 and PM2.5 particles can cause respiratory and cardiac problems as well as lung cancer.
BS Vohra, joint front president of east Delhi RWAs, who filed an RTI plea that revealed the statistics, said, "The data shows that the pollution-control authorities have completely failed to discharge their duty. They must take remedial measures to keep air pollution under control."
"A high-powered committee formed by Delhi's lieutenant governor has given its recommendations to check air and water pollution in the city. Concerned departments are working on specific deadlines under strict monitoring by the L-G's office. Things will improve soon," said a senior government official.
The data shows high levels of carbon monoxide, ozone and benzene are also playing havoc with Delhi's air.