Pollution In Delhi Essay

WHY DELHI SUFFERS: ALL BIG TALK BUT NOTHING CONCRETE HAS BEEN DONE

A lot has been said and promised but very little has been done to control the pollution that is choking Delhi year after year in winters

DELHI GOVT’S PROMISES

SHORT-TERM


Road vacuuming: Six machine sweepers launched in April to check road dust
CHALLENGE: Can’t be operated on uneven roads
STATUS: Machines called back. On Tuesday, Manish Sisodia, reintroduced them
Sprinklers, mist fountains: Water sprinklers and mist fountains to settle dust
CHALLENGE: Won’t help if dust not regularly cleared
STATUS: Not launched
Outdoor air purifiers: Air purifiers to be set up at five locations
CHALLENGE: Don’t work well in open space
STATUS: Not launched
Odd-even scheme: Odd, even numbered cars ply on alernate days to check congestion, emissions.
CHALLENGE: Farm fires, school season negates impact, no clarity on success
STATUS: Not on govt’s immediate agenda
Night sweeping: Sweeping of roads at night to allow dust to settle down by morning
CHALLENGE: Lack of sanitation staff
STATUS: Except NDMC, no civic body abiding

LONG-TERM


Controlling crop burning: Problem persists despite meetings and letters to Punjab, Haryana
CHALLENGE: Lack of coordination, fewer fines in Punjab because of election year
STATUS: First of many interstate meets on Friday, no concrete plan
Public transport: DTC fleet has 5,951 buses, 8,000 short of need. Last mile link a problem.
CHALLENGE: Bus procurement stuck, auto-drivers overcharge customers, last mile issues
STATUS: Indefinite
Bharat Stage-VI: SC ordered cleaner fuel standards by 2020 to cut emissions by 60%.
CHALLENGE: Faces reluctance from manufacturers and dealers
STATUS: To be in force by Apr 2017

CENTRE’S ACTION PLAN FOR STATES IN JULY 2016

Green buffers along traffic corridors within 90 days
IMPACT: Prevent recirculation of dust that aggravated pollution
STATUS: Work slow in most states
Greening of open areas in 90 days to reduce dust pollution
IMPACT: Prevent recirculation of dust that aggravated pollution
STATUS: Work slow in most states
Ban on stubble and waste burning within 90 days
IMPACT: Contributes 26% to Delhi’s air pollution
STATUS: Initiated in Haryana and Punjab, stopped for political reasons
Install emission traps in brick kilns around Delhi in 120 days
IMPACT: Would have reduced capital’s pollution load by 10%-15%
STATUS: Slow progress, politically connected kiln owners resist
Enforce construction rules
IMPACT: Would havereduced particulate pollutionby 30%
STATUS: Poor enforcement and fear that it may lead to corruption
Decongest traffic
IMPACT: Central panel recommended taxing use of private vehicles.
STATUS: Indefinite

WHAT EXPERTS REALLY WANT

  • Impound vehicles using city as thoroughfare, no day movement of goods.
  • Incentives for auto firms to take polluting vehicles, person one car norm, higher tax for fuel guzzling SUVs, incentive for electric cars.
  • Hike parking fee, need congestion charge in busy areas, impound vehicles not parked at destined spots.
  • Declare all shopping areas such as CP, Khan Market, Sarojini Nagar as no vehicle zones. Introduce pedestrian and cycle tracks
  • Reliable public transport at 5 minutes walking distance of one’s home and available within 2-5 minutes, an international norm. Improve last mile connectivity from all metro stations
  • Notify dust management rules for all agencies. govt and private. Violators have to pay hefty penalty.

Are the measures enough?

A look at the pollution control measures taken by the Delhi government last year suggests that a number of steps, which otherwise should have continued at regular intervals, have only been reintroduced or re-packaged.

Environmentalists too are unimpressed with the directives, saying they believed the steps are a repetition of last year’s action plan.

Bhargav Krishna from the Public Health Foundation of India asked why the government did not act earlier, when the situation could have been controlled.

Moreover, none of the measures introduced by the government are considered viable long-term options.

What can we learn from other cities around the world?

China’s capital Beijing too reels under heavy winter smog as the country switches to coal-fuelled central heating and releases more pollutants in the air. But a newspaper said China has launched a crackdown on heavy vehicles that failed to meet emission standards.

Beijing also plans to create ventilation corridors by connecting the city’s parks, rivers and lakes, highways with green belts and low building blocks that will allow the air to flow and blow away smog.

Delhi can also learn from cities such as London and Los Angeles that have battled deadly smogs in the past, but have taken measures to combat the situation.

Everyone is talking about the Delhi smog. People are increasingly becoming concerned about its ill effect on health, work and quality of life.

As such, Delhi is one of the worst polluted cities in the world and conditions have worsened because of an add-on of several factors. Smog in Delhi around Diwali festivities is not happening for the first time and as things stand, it will not be the last either.

Smog increases hospital admissions and sick days. Major health effects of air pollution associated with are:

Respiratory: Short term decrease in breathing ability and increase in chest pains; inflammation of the lungs and damage to respiratory cells; permanent lung damage and reduced quality of life due to ozone; increased number of asthma attacks due to nitrogen dioxide.

Cardiovascular: There is a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream in people with heart disease, due to carbon monoxide.

Also, there is an increased risk of cancer and increased susceptibility to infection among children that aggravate asthma.

However, rather than being hysterical about the occurrence of smog as is being presented during television debates, one needs to understand causes and look for possible solutions.

After the withdrawal of monsoon, months of October and November bring in pleasant weather conditions, good for picnics and outdoor activities. Now, we are facing a situation where people are being advised not to go for a morning walk and children not to play outside.

There are multiple factors, which over a period have grown in intensity contributing to increase in the severity and frequency of smog over Delhi. It starts with burning of rice stubble by farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh in the month of October. With an increase in the cultivated area for paddy in recent decades, pollution caused by rice stubble burning has been increasing over a period.Evidence of this can be clearly seen in the satellite imageries.

The next culprit is dust pollution caused by large-scale construction activity going on in the NCR region including metro construction. Third in line is vehicular traffic, which has been increasing each year, contributing to higher pollution in NCR region.

Industrial pollution and garbage dumps are other contributing factors. During Diwali vehicular traffic increases substantially,with shopping and visiting relatives and friends resulting in traffic jams and higher pollution.

Firecrackers on Diwali day make the situation worse for a city already suffering from severe pollution.

Under normal conditions, nature has a diurnal, large-scale circulation features to disperse pollutants and mitigate the smog. However, on many occasions meteorological conditions like light wind, low temperatures, stable layer are such that rather than causing dispersion, these increase in the concentration of air pollutants resulting in smog persisting for days together.

It is not only Delhi alone which is suffering from smog. Many cities in United States and Europe have suffered from severe smog. The infamous Great London Smog of December 1952 resulted many premature deaths between December 5 and 10, 1952. However, this catastrophic event galvanized British Government to enact 1956 Clean Air Act, enforcement of which help in reducing the occurrence of smog in London.

India needs to holistically address the causes of smog, initiate necessary regulatory measures, and ensure their compliance. First is a ban on burning of rice stubble. It will require alternate solutions for the disposal of rice stubble. State governments have to enforce ban on crop burning with all sincerity to make it happen.

Next is control of dust pollution from construction sites. Each construction site should have dust-monitoring mechanism by local pollution boards with provision of heavy penalty on violation of permissible limits.

Since meteorological conditions can be very well forecast one week in advance, state government should take proactive measures such as shutting down of polluting industries, restricting interstate traffic and regulating city traffic so that smog like conditions do not develop.

SAFAR programme of Ministry of Earth Sciences provides air quality forecast for next three days, which could be used by State Government to close primary schools on days when severe air quality is forecast. All these measures require coordinated and sustained efforts by Central, neighboring states and Delhi government to address the causes of air pollution by regulatory and governance mechanism coupled with effective use of meteorological and air quality forecast to mitigate the impact of likely severe episodes of air quality such as smog.

Opinion by
Expert, Geography and You
AVM (Retd) Prof. Ajit Tyagi,
President, Indian Meteorological Society, Member, W.M.O. Monsoon Panel, Member, Working Group on Tropical Meteorology Research, Former Director General of Meteorology and Permanent Representative of India with W.M.O.

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