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Delhi air turns killer again

If you still celebrate the success of CNG, this may force a rethink: Delhi's air is not as clean as you believe.
By HT Correspondent | None, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 20, 2006 03:32 AM IST

If you are still celebrating the success of CNG, this might force a rethink: Delhi's air is not as clean as you believe. In fact, air pollution is fast moving towards the dangerous level of the pre-CNG days of the late Nineties. And it is being attributed to the rapidly increasing count of vehicles on the roads.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), areas like Town Hall and ITO have become the most polluted in terms of particulate matter, and Nitrogen Oxide is the emerging threat.

On Wednesday, the CSE released "The Leapfrog Factor", a study on levels of pollution in Asian cities, which makes a strong argument for a better public transport system. It claims that the increase in the number of private diesel vehicles contributes most to the pollution.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who released the book, said it was time for second-generation reforms. "Delhi has to be the city to experiment the second-generation of change," she said. "Let's find a way forward, decide upon the best technology and I promise funds will not be a problem."

The CSE's data indicates there better be a solution soon as the city is inhaling killer air. One person dies every hour because of it. Also, there has been a 21.3 per cent increase in lung diseases, 20 per cent increase in asthma patients and 25 per cent increase in heart patients.

Anumita Roychowdhury, who researched for the book, said the biggest problem is the number of vehicles. Delhi owns 17 per cent of India's cars. "A car caught in congestion pollutes four times more. They occupy 90 per cent of city's road space but transport only 17 per cent people," she said. She said diesel vehicles have made it worse. "The refineries produce what we call 'dirty diesel' with high sulphur content. This needs to be controlled."

Bhure Lal, who headed the committee that had recommended CNG, said refineries plan to reduce the sulphur content further to European norms. He said better public transport was the solution.

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