Delhi’s pollution hotspots: Housing hub Patparganj forced to inhale toxins
Part 2 of 5: Proximity to industries, garbage burning make east Delhi locality Patparganj one of the most polluted in Delhidelhi Updated: Jan 10, 2018 16:38 IST
Diwan Singh, in his late 50s, had very fondly purchased a second-floor flat, exhausting most of his life’s savings, in one of the many apartments at IP Extension in east Delhi’s Patparganj.
Owning a flat at one of east Delhi’s prime locations — overlooking the greenery of IP Park and the NH-24 at a stone’s throw with vehicles whizzing past — is a dream for many. But ask Singh and he says that ‘all that glitters is not gold’. The reality in Patparganj is somewhat different from what seems apparent.
“Life has become a hell here. My five-year-old son often falls sick, complaining of a sore throat and cough. The local doctor says it is mainly because of pollution. The winter season is particularly bad,” said Singh. While nearby Anand Vihar had earned notoriety long back for being one of the most polluted places in Delhi, 20 new monitoring stations added to Delhi’s network have blown the lid off from some other areas where air pollution is equally bad or sometimes even worse.
Patparganj is one of them. One of the new monitoring stations of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee is located at the Mother Dairy plant at Patparganj. Hindustan Times tried to find out the sources of pollution that have made this area one of Delhi’s new pollution hotspots.
◼ Some industrial units are still using ‘unauthorized fuel’
◼ 126 have been issued show cause notices; Sahibabad industrial area close byGarbage burning
◼ Rampant garbage burning
◼ Paper, leather scarps, polythene burnt openly in the industrial area
◼ Fire at Ghazipur dumping site is a common problemVehicles
◼ Trucks and two-wheelers are common in industrial area
◼ Two arterial roads – NH24 and Noida Link Road – nearby
◼ Congested areas like Preet Vihar and Nirman Vihar add to the problemDust pollution
◼ Construction of Metro and expansion of NH-24Wind
◼ Easterly winds bring in pollutants from Anand Vihar and Ghaziabad
While Patparganj has its own industrial zone, the Sahibabad Industrial Area in UP is located a few kilometers east. A few hundred small-scale units, many of which run illegally and use non-permitted fuels, operate from these two zones.
“We recently issued show-cause notices to 126 units in Patparganj Industrial Area as they were operating without consent,” said a senior official of DPCC.
When HT visited the spot, open burning of garbage was spotted in several corners of the industrial area. A large number of vehicles, including trucks and two-wheelers, were seen parked on the roads and lanes. These vehicles also contribute significantly to the area’s pollution levels.
“Every day when I come here for work, I can feel the pollution. There is garbage burning and dust pollution is tremendous. In winters, I get a burning sensation in my eyes,” said Snehlata who comes from all the way to Patparganj Industrial Area from Indirapuram in Ghaziabad.
Dust pollution is not new in developing cities. But it assumes alarming proportions when it comes to east Delhi because of undergoing projects such the expansion of NH-24 for the Meerut Expressway project and the Metro.
Such is the level of dust pollution that EPCA chief Bhure Lal had said in a meeting : “NHAI is one of the worst polluters. Every time a vehicle zooms past on NH24, it churns up a smoke of dust,” he said.
As one leaves the Noida Link Road and takes the NH-24, residential colonies, high-rises, and hotels can be spotted along the highway. Look closer, and you will find that most windows are shut fast. “We can’t open the windows. Everything in my house gets covered with dust. I am an asthma patient. I am able to breathe properly only in monsoon,” said Jasjeev Singh, a resident of Khichdipur-Block 8, an area close to Patparganj.
Open construction sites and debris of razed houses remain scattered on the roadside, while mini tar boilers deployed for patchwork on broken roads emit thick black fumes.
Burning of garbage in the open is banned in Delhi under the Graded Response Action Plan. The National Green Tribunal has also directed municipal authorities to crack down on garbage burning as it triggers pollution. However, HT spotted many cases of garbage burning both in the industrial zone and in residential areas. People, mostly office goers and locals, were seen covering their nose with cloth as white fumes filled the area.
“Garbage burning is a major problem in this part of the city. Though it is somewhat restricted in the residential areas, as the locals complain, it is rampant in the industrial zone,” said Manav Banshi a resident of Madhu Vihar.
Industrial waste of all kinds — paper, scraps of leather, polythene — was found dumped in heaps in several corners in the Patparganj Industrial Zone.
Another major source of pollution is the Ghazipur landfill site, located around 4 km east of Patparganj.
Fires at the site are usually caused when the trapped methane gas comes in contact with air. In some cases, however, the rag-pickers set the garbage on fire in order to quickly sift through the trash for recyclable items.
“Such fires are common, but when the fire is big it becomes unbearable. The situations worsen when the wind blows in from that side carrying the fumes. At times you can feel it even inside your home,” said Manabi Adhikary, a resident of a housing society in Patparganj.
With time, east Delhi has attained a neat and chic look with upscale residential areas, malls and indulging restaurants. Some important commercial and administrative centres are located in east Delhi.
Patparganj also has its own fleet of vehicles with two-wheelers comprising a major portion. The narrow lanes and by-lanes of Patparganj, including Patparganj Village, increase the demand for two-wheelers.
“There are around 300 flats in our society but around 500 vehicles, including two-wheelers which are maximum,” said a local, who refused to disclose his name.
Emission from vehicles is aggravated as two major arterial roads — Noida Link Road and the NH24 — pass close to Patparganj. Lakhs of vehicles hit these two roads every day.
Apart from this, other residential, commercial zones and administrative areas such as Preet Vihar, Nirman Vihar and Mayur Vihar that border Patparganj also have their own vehicular, fleet which adds to the pollution levels. The known pollution hotspots of Anand Vihar and Ghaziabad are within a close range too and pollution levels are pushed up when the wind brings in pollutants from these areas.
Wind speed also plays a key role in determining the air quality in this area, just as in the rest of the city. Pollution levels in Patparganj also fluctuate with wind direction. Some of the pollution hotspots of Delhi-NCR such as Anand Vihar, Ghaziabad and Noida are located in the east and north-east of Patparganj. Every time the easterly winds blow, pollutants from these hotspots reach the city and Patparganj is the first to bear the brunt.
“Easterly winds push up pollution levels in Patparganj as this area has some of the most polluted places on its eastern side,” said D Saha head of the air quality laboratory at Central Pollution Control Board.