Delhi CM: Pollution rising, need your help to bring it down
People should turn off their vehicles when waiting at a traffic signal, use public transport or carpool once a week, and flag violations of environmental rules, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to citizens on Tuesday, after hitting out at neighbouring states for failing to stop farm fires which, he said, will impact the Capital’s air soon.
Kejriwal’s appeal comes days after the city launched a 10-point action plan to mitigate a spike in air pollution levels.
“Air pollution has been slowly increasing for the last three-four days. One of the main reasons is that stubble burning has started in neighbouring states where governments have failed in helping farmers in this regard. We can get a clear picture of that through Nasa images… Last week, we presented a 10-point action plan. Today, I seek your help in reducing air pollution in personal capacity,” said Kejriwal in a video briefing on Tuesday.
He said the government, like last year, will launch an awareness campaign on the benefits of switching off engines at traffic lights. “Even though we will launch a formal campaign this year again from October 18, I request you to start it in personal capacity from today. Studies have shown that by doing this we can collectively save around ₹250 crore a year and reduce pollution by up to 15%.”
Last year, it launched the “Red light on, gaadi off (vehicle off)” campaign to help reduce vehicular emissions and fuel consumption. While environmentalists and activists appreciated the campaign, many pointed out the limited period for which it lasted. Experts said a campaign aimed to bring about a behavioural change needs to be sustained to show visible results.
“Secondly, I request you to use public transport or carpool at least once a week, instead of using a personal vehicle. Doing it more than once a week would be even better. Third, I request you to download the Green Delhi app... for actively registering complaints regarding pollution... We have resolved more than 23,000 complaints through the app so far,” said Kejriwal.
On October 4, Kejriwal released a winter action plan. It includes free distribution of a bio-decomposer to help dissolve paddy stubble – the farm residue is a major source of pollution. Farmers set this alight as a quick and cheap way to prepare their fields for the next crop that need to be sowed before the onset of winter.
The plan also includes dust suppression drives, a ban on burning of garbage, installation of smog towers, a tight vigil on the ban on firecrackers, constant monitoring of pollution hot spots, and investing on efforts to reduce vehicular pollution in the capital
Kejriwal, over the last month, has been tweeting the city’s daily AQI recordings to show what he says is pollution under regular circumstances. On Tuesday, the 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) was at 179, which is regarded as moderately polluted.
At least 11 of the 35 air monitoring stations in the city recorded air quality that was in the poor category (with a value of over 200), up from 7 a day before. On Monday, Delhi’s average AQI was 166.
To be sure, farm fires are not the only reason for the drop in air quality. Meteorological conditions are a strong factor, and they trap the local dust and emissions from vehicles and factories in the air close to the ground. There are also significant local sources of pollution, such as road dust and construction debris, that the authorities have struggled to control over the years. The situation is made worse by the use of firecrackers -- banned in Delhi since 2017 by the Supreme Court, except for relatively less polluting “green crackers” -- during Diwali, which lead to a sudden spurt by adding emissions that are more toxic than usual.
Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav in an interview last week said that all stakeholders are working together to control farm fires this time and special directions have been issued by the newly formed Committee on Air Quality Management (CAQM) to states to provide all assistance to farmers so that they refrain from setting their fields on fire.
Farmer unions this year warned that there could be significant instances of farm fires, since the monsoon withdrew late, reducing the time cultivators had to harvest the crop. “Harvesting has started but will pick up properly around October 10. Until the government plans to give farmers a direct subsidy, most farmers will choose to burn stubble,” said Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Punjab, told HT last week.