Delhi pollution: Mundka, Alipur choke on severely bad air
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recordings on Saturday showed that while the city’s overall air quality index improved to 345 from Friday’s 366, Mundka and Alipur — both of which were categorised as pollution ‘hotspots’ by CPCB in 2018 — have now been in the ‘severe’ zone for over 38 hours at a stretch.Updated: Oct 25, 2020, 00:24 IST
The air quality of the city improved marginally on Saturday. But residents in two localities of Delhi — Mundka and Alipur — continued breathing toxic air, with the air in the region hovering in the ‘severe’ category for more than 38 hours.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) recordings on Saturday showed that while the city’s overall air quality index improved to 345 from Friday’s 366, Mundka and Alipur — both of which were categorised as pollution ‘hotspots’ by CPCB in 2018 — have now been in the ‘severe’ zone for over 38 hours at a stretch.
In Mundka, the average AQI on Saturday was 425, while in Alipur, the levels were measured at around 413 throughout the day.
Hindustan Times visited these two severely polluted neighbourhoods of the city to find out the reasons behind the air emergency and if preventive actions promised by enforcement agencies were being implemented on the ground.
Driving through NH-10, a thick cloud of dust envelops your vehicle as you approach the Mundka Metro station. On Saturday, dust on broken roads— that has not been swept for days — was seen flying around as high speed vehicles zoomed through the highway.
Surendra Singh, a business owner on the Rohtak Road, said that the area is perpetually enveloped in dust during the day, while at night the emissions from waste burning, industries and construction takes over.
“Every pollution source that you can possibly think of is active here. The roads have not been swept in weeks, which caused dust to be accumulated on the sides and as vehicles move, it flies around. If you go a little inside, there is some private construction work going on and the cement and the construction material is often kept in open, without any covers. I have made several complaints with the CPCB and the Delhi government. But instead of addressing the concerns,they sit on it and then close the complaint without taking any action,” Singh said.
The service roads leading to Mundka metro station, are dotted by several tyre repair shops and open air eateries, which add to the already worsened air. Locals there claimed that after sundown daily, heaps of tyres are piled up on the road side and set ablaze.
This emits thick black smoke into the air, making it difficult to even stand in the vicinity. The blaze and the smoke billowing from such fires can often be seen from several metres away, residents said.
“Open burning is a major problem here. Not just these tyres, but people just dump garbage and once in about a week or two, these piles are set on fire. At night, once shops are closed you cannot stand here without getting choked,” said Majid Khan, a shop owner.
On Saturday, the PM 2.5 (ultrafine particulate matter with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) levels in Mundka spiked to 372ug/m3—nearly six times above the acceptable limit of 60ug/m3.
The PM 10 levels (particulate matter with diameter less than 10 micrometers) reached 788ug/m3, as against the standard of 100ug/m3.
Contacted, the monitoring teams of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) claimed that the winter segment of the Supreme Court-approved Graded Response Action Plan (Grap) is in force across the city and surveillance and action against polluting activities has increased. The focus, they said, is also on areas in the hotspot list, of which Mundka is a part.
“We have been monitoring the pollution sources across the city, but our focus has been on the hotspots. Mundka is an industrial area . Apart from what we observe through patrolling, we also promptly respond to complaints received by residents,” a senior DPCC official said.
The onus is also on the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the primary enforcement agency responsible for checking open air burning, which residents claimed they have been lax in doing so far.
Jai Prakash, north Delhi mayor, said that the municipal agency was doing its best with the resources available with them.
“We are short of staff and money but that does not mean that we have stopped work. Our teams are working round the clock to ensure that water sprinkling is routinely happening in all the areas under our jurisdiction. Dust control measures are also being taken,” he said.
In Alipur, a locality which shares its close proximity with Bhalswa landfill, vehicular emissions from trucks is the main culprit for the area’s toxic air. The Alipur main road is lined with truck yards. The poor maintenance of these commercial vehicles and the bad condition of the roads here, become a lethal combination in pushing the air quality into emergency levels every winter.
N. Sudama, a truck dealer in Alipur, said that every day around 6,000-7,000 trucks move in and out of the area. He said that apart from the emissions from the tailpipe of the trucks, these trucks are mostly parked on unpaved yards and the constant movement leads to dust flying around.
“We have no option because this is our business and there are no residential areas in the vicinity. But if the authorities help us improve facilities here, things can surely get better,” Sudama said.
Pollution data shows that on Saturday, the PM 2.5 levels in Alipur had touched 405ug/m3, while the levels of PM10 had spiked to 737ug/m3.
Right below the Alipur flyover, the road construction work by the Public Works Department (PWD), was also seen to be violating dust control norms. The uncovered fine particles from the mounds of construction material were clearly visible flying around.
“We ensure that the entire area is regularly sprinkled with water. The material is not covered now but we usually cover it up,” said a supervisor at the site.
Krishna Sharma, a worker at one of the yards on the stretch said, that vacant plots also become a hotspot for burning and dumping of construction rubble.
“I work here and I have never seen any official stop anyone from dumping waste in these plots. The government must be working only in the New Delhi area and some posh neighbourhoods around it,” Sharma said.