Odd-even not enough: Neighbours’ help key to clean Delhi’s air
When the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government launched a full-fledged war against air pollution in Delhi last year, the measures it introduced were drastic. But so was the situation in the nation’s capital, its lungs blackened by toxic exhaust fumes from vehicles and industries and in part by smoke from crop residue burnt in neighbouring statesdelhi Updated: Feb 09, 2016 08:55 IST
When the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government launched a full-fledged war against air pollution in Delhi last year, the measures it introduced were drastic. But so was the situation in the nation’s capital, its lungs blackened by toxic exhaust fumes from vehicles and industries and in part by smoke from crop residue burnt in neighbouring states.
Air in the Capital is a toxic concoction of exhaust fumes from vehicles, industries and smoke from crop residue burnt in the neighbouring states.
And therein lies the biggest challenge for the state government led by Arvind Kejriwal – in ensuring cooperation from neighbouring states in cleaning up the air in Delhi, named by the World Health Organization (WHO) among the world’s most polluted cities.
From the radical road-rationing scheme to the decision to shut down polluting power plans, the AAP government made all right moves, according to experts.
“It has been a good start. People have understood how behavioural change can help. Now there is a need to sustain it. The odd-even plan was an emergency measure and it worked to a large extent. It has been a movement in the right direction,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Centre for Science and Environment, who also heads its air pollution control campaign.
“The government now needs to take up its source-wise action plan and push for time-bound implementation.”
The wake-up call for the government came after a study on Delhi’s air quality, conducted by IIT-Kanpur over two years, revealed that vehicle exhaust was choking the lungs of people during winter. In summer, the danger came from fumes released by coal-fired power plants, the fly ash they release and dust from roads and construction sites.
“Earlier, too, governments took measures against pollution with a push for CNG-fuelled vehicles. The momentum is being built again and it needs to be sustained,” Roychowdhury said.
The debate over whether the road rationing scheme actually helped reduce pollution is still continuing with the government claiming big gains and some experts refuting them.
It was clear, however, that air quality in some parts of Delhi did improve.
Apart from the road rationing scheme in the first fortnight of 2016, the government also took other tough measures to clean the city’s air. It was decided that movement of trucks in Delhi will be allowed from 10.30 pm or 11 pm instead of 9 pm, as these slow down traffic which in turn escalates pollution.
Mobile enforcement teams were conceptualised for crackdown on vehicles triggering pollution and vehicles not having pollution under control certificates.
The Centre too joined in by bringing forward by a year the cut-off date for implementation of Euro-VI emission norms, earlier fixed for January 1, 2019. It will now be implemented from January 1, 2017 in Delhi.
The PWD decided to start vacuum-cleaning roads from 1 April 2016, to check road dust. The plan was in cold storage for a long time and it remains to be seen if it takes off on the new date.
Extensive horticulture has also been planned to ensure that open areas prone to generating dust are greened and do not contribute to the dust.
The government also decided to shut down the Badarpur thermal power plant, one of the coalbased plants of the NTPC which was commissioned in the early 1970s and uses outdated equipment and often breaks down.
It also wrote to the National Green Tribunal for shutting down thermal power plants around Delhi, such as the one in Dadri.
The NGT had earlier asked five neighbouring states like Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab to clamp down on people burning crop residue, one of the major contributors of air pollution in Delhi during the winter.
Experts pointed out that the single biggest challenge for the government now will in convincing neighbouring states and towns to join hands with it to combat pollution.
For, the air we breathe does not recognise geographical boundaries.