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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Failure in containing dust denying Delhi right to breathe cleaner air

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI), as recorded by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), has been in the ‘poor’ category for the past two weeks.

delhi Updated: Oct 22, 2019 04:47 IST
Ashish Mishra
Ashish Mishra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A view of smog leading to pollution near AIIMS flyover in New Delhi, on Monday, October 21, 2019.
A view of smog leading to pollution near AIIMS flyover in New Delhi, on Monday, October 21, 2019.(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
         

The lackadaisical attitude of construction agencies and uncontrolled construction activities are among the key reasons for Delhi’s worsening air quality.

The air quality index (AQI), as recorded by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), has been in the ‘poor’ category for the past two weeks.

Construction sites are required to regularly sprinkle water to settle the dust, pave roads leading to the sites and put up high barriers to cover the construction area. Construction agencies are also supposed to transport all debris, suitably covered, to a C&D waste plant, instead of leaving it lying around.

HT on Friday conducted a spot check at some of the main construction projects in the city.

Pragati Maidan

Pragati Maidan area has turned into a dust bowl. Uncovered construction material, dug-up soil and machinery can be seen at the site. Although the authorities have covered the construction area with green drapes in some places, most were left exposed.

Dust could be seen flying off the ground and polluting the area. Earlier this week, pollution control bodies had imposed heavy fines on construction agencies responsible but no major checks or balances were seen.

Under the Pragati Maidan redevelopment project, the public works department (PWD) is constructing a 1.2km tunnel and six underpasses to make travel to India Gate and parts of central Delhi from different corners of the city more smoother. Alongside these, the NBCC India is constructing the ITPO headquarters.

Commuters near the site also complained of dust and held the ongoing construction responsible for the pollution. “Infrastructure projects should be carried out in a regulated way so that the level of pollution is less. The area should be completely covered and water should be sprinkled to control the dust,” Sriniwas Kaushik, a commuter, said.

“We follow all norms at construction sites to control dust. Still, if there are violations, we will look into them and ensure that dust is controlled,” a senior PWD official, who wished not to be named, said. NBCC officials refused comment on the matter.

Signature Bridge

Although concrete-related construction activities were stopped after the bridge was opened for traffic last year, work related to the installation of a viewing gallery at the top of the pylon is ongoing.

The area beneath the bridge has turned mucky with ankle-deep dirt at places. No water was being sprinkled in the area. Also, construction equipment and material such as rods, pillars, grills and welding material were left laying in the open. Yet, an official at the construction site said, “We follow all norms. There is no concrete construction material and we sprinkle water daily.”

Dhaula Kuan

In the heart of the national capital, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is constructing a direct link from Dhaula Kuan to the airport to help commuters reach terminals faster. However, the construction of this signal-free corridor comes at a price. Major work on the corridor is over and a section near the Dhaula Kuan Metro station is already open to traffic, but the portion near the airport approach road has construction material left uncovered in the middle of the road.

Estimates by the Delhi traffic police shows that every day, nearly 1.2 lakh vehicles pass via that way. The traffic also becomes an unfortunate catalyst in dispersing the dust particles in the area and around. “Since vehicles movement here is slow, owing to construction work and heavy traffic, commuters, especially bikers, inhale the dust that causes breathing problems and also blurs visibility. Water sprinkling should be done regularly there,” Ashwani Tiwari, a two-wheeler rider, said.

Barapullah elevated road Phase-3

This road is being built on the Yamuna floodplains by PWD and the site is surrounded by dry, open crop fields, which in turn aid the wider dispersal of dust. The construction material and the machinery are kept in the open without covers. The dug-up soil was also left uncovered at the site.

The project entails construction of an elevated corridor between Mayur Vihar-2 and Sarai Kale Khan, where it would meet the already functional Phase-1 of the corridor.

What MCDs say

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) on Monday said that it has arrived at a settlement with the PWD to clear construction and demolition (C&D) debris from PWD roads, which lie under its jurisdiction. Officials also said that in spite of designated C&D dumping points in the city, people and/or their contractors often unload their building waste on these roads under the cover of darkness.

SDMC said that it has removed total 596.5 cubic ton of C&D Waste from its area in the last 24 hours. It also inspected 727 sites and 669 challans amounting to ₹7.7 lakh were issued against the violators. The north body said that it has issued 133 for dust, while the east corporation said that they found 157 violations and issued challans worth ₹4.6 lakh in the last 24 hours.