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Despite being less polluted than Delhi, Paris fighting it better

Paris air is about five times lesser toxic than what it is in Delhi yet the authorities in the French Capital have a better plan to deal with the problem.

delhi Updated: Jun 22, 2015 09:53 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

Paris air is about five times lesser toxic than what it is in Delhi yet the authorities in the French Capital have a better plan to deal with the problem.

By 2020, Paris will have no diesel car running on its streets and they will be replaced by vehicles running on cleaner fuels like on Hydrogen, natural gas and no emission electric or hybrid cars. “We have a plan in place and everyone has agreed to it. Diesel vehicle lobby insists that their vehicles are not polluting but we have asked them to cooperate,” said Paris’ deputy mayor Patrick Klugman.

The city government has also decided to give 30% subsidy for every electric car bought in the city. It would mean that an electric car will cost similar to a vehicle running on a fossil fuel.

In comparison, the Central government has not agreed to a National Green Tribunal order to phase put diesel vehicles older than 10 years from the Delhi roads. The road transport ministry has filed an appeal against the NGT order with the diesel lobby insisting that the vehicles are not polluting. Internationally, the diesel is considered a highly polluting fuel and cities like Paris have taken steps to restrict its use as vehicular fuel.

Paris has also made sharing of urban space — cycle and car sharing — a reality to fight air pollution.

It has also introduced car sharing system called Autolib in which a person can rent an electric car on the move in a street, use it for sometime and leave it back in a dedicated parking area on the street. For using this unique car sharing service gaining prominence in Europe, a person has to enroll for the service and pay an annual charge and then an extremely affordable price for use every time. In a year, the users of the service has increased three-fold.

Now Paris has one of the biggest networks of cycle sharing systems in the world with a bike available within five minutes of walking distance. Like cars, one has to subscribe to the system to use it. But unlike car sharing, the cost of using a cycle is not uniform — very less for first half hour and a huge hike for subsequent hours. This is make optimal use of cycles in the city which receives over five million tourists a year, almost equal to its population.

A few cycle tracks that Delhi has have either been encroached or are used by motorcycles. There are no cycle parking areas in the capital although Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government plans to have a few.

Paris also restricts vehicle movement and makes public transport free on high air pollution days. Nothing of that sort happens in Delhi where air pollution forecast advisory will start only from 2016.

All this is happening in Paris where the average annual particulate matter pollution level is about 30 microns in a cubic metre of air (ug/m3) as compared to over 200 in Delhi.

The latest pollution data collected by air quality monitoring system on a hot balloon which rises to 350 metres above the ground in Paris shows no co-relation between levels of coarse particulate matter (PM 10) and fine PM of less than 2.5 microns that can settle deep inside the lungs without one feeling it. “We have observed that on several days the level of small particles monitored PM 0 to 0.1 microns is much higher than PM 10 microns, showing that vehicle exhaust contribute a lot to air pollution,” said Jean-baptiste Renard, a scientist at the hot air balloon air observatory.

In India, there is no monitoring of PM particles of less than 1 microns. In big cities like Delhi, the PM pollution for 10 microns and 2.5 microns are monitored meaning that we don’t even know that the level of small microns that effects one’s health the most. On average, the level of smallest PM particles in air is about 30% more than PM 2.5 in Paris. Delhi’s annual average PM 2.5 pollution level was about 270 unit grams in cubic meter of air (ug/m3) in 2013.

(The author was in France on invitation of the French government)

First Published: Jun 22, 2015 01:14 IST