The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in its latest report, has delivered a spot of bad news: The smog is here to stay. It has also warned that Delhi is in the grip of a multi-pollutant crisis.
“Particulate matter is not the only thing choking us. Nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and benzene levels are also playing havoc. Some of these pollutants come predominantly from vehicles,” Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director at the CSE, said.
She also pointed out how other countries issue warnings and take measures to combat pollution. “Other countries have prevented such severe pollution episodes during winter. Why can’t Delhi do the same?” wondered Chowdhury.
The CSE also believes that Delhi has exhausted all its soft options. “The city has advanced emission norms, strengthened its ‘pollution under control’ programme, implemented a CNG programme and restricted commercial vehicles from entering the city. The next steps need to combat not only the rising pollution, but also the high mixture of pollutants,” she said.
Stating that Delhi is taking a long time to scale up its public transport system, she said traffic volume has exceeded the designed capacity on all arterial roads. Due to this, more than half of Delhiites living within the influence zone of these roads are more vulnerable to traffic emissions, she said.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee has blamed low wind speed, plummeting temperatures, high humidity levels and farm fires in nearby states for the smog. But Chowdhury highlighted a new threat — ozone, inhaling which impacts eyes and lowers immunity. “At a few locations, they are exceeding permissible limits at a few locations,” she said.
REASONS FOR SMOG
* Slow wind speed, low temperature, high humidity. Have led to high concentration of dust, nitrogen oxides.
* Burning of rice husk/straw in agricultural fields in neighbouring states a contributing factor as pollutants are unable to disperse due to inversion phenomenon.
* Nearly 70 lakh vehicles in city emitting pollutants. The smog traps these and they remain suspended in air and the pollutants cause respiratory problems.
HOW IT WILL CLEAR
* Authorities are hoping wind velocity, which is pretty low now, will peak, the sky will clear, sunlight will heat the earth and wind will start moving upwards.
* Even rains could clear up the sky.
Road map for Delhi
Pollution levels go up significantly during peak traffic hours. In RK Puram, Mandir Marg and Civil Lines, both particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and NOx concentrations are high during peak hours. Pollution levels are extremely high in Anand Vihar, which witnesses very heavy traffic. In Civil Lines, PM 2.5 levels are high even during night, which can be attributed to the movement of goods traffic.
In Paris, authorities advise drivers to postpone trips to the city or bypass it, use public transport or resort to car-pooling. In Mexico City, government-owned vehicles and polluting vehicles are stopped. In Berlin, older polluting vehicles are not allowed in the city centre. Other governments take daily pollution levels very seriously to protect public health.
What Delhi should do
*Speedy implementation of the second generation action plan
*Scaling up and integration of public transport systems
*Augmentation of walking and cycling facilities
*Speedy implementation of emissions standards road map
*Physical removal of visibly smoke-billowing vehicles
*Regulation and reduction of the daily influx of traffic from outside
*Use of smog alert system for effective measures