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Delhi Pollution:Winter of Discontent

Kingson Chingakham

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The Delhi Pollution has again brought into the limelight the serious negligence of the policy makers to tackle the environmental issues.The Berkeley Earth Science Research Group has revealed that in a severe pollution condition like what has been experienced in the city,breathing in air with a PM2.5 content of between 950 to 1000 is roughly equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day.

According to the Lancet commission on pollution and health,India had the maximum deaths in 2015 because of pollution(2.5 million deaths).The problem of air pollution is so critical in the capital city that ad hoc measures like banning of fire crackers before Diwali,shutting down power plants,or even rationing of vehicles through odd-even scheme have failed to bring down the pollution level.The huge cost the citizens have to pay through health because of pollution needs to be intensively examined and researched to bring a well organized plan.

Whom to blame?

There have been several research and reports on pollution and climate change that have sprung up in the last few years within the country and abroad.These research papers and reports are more than adequate to bring out an actionable plan that is targeted towards reducing the toxicity in the air. But the lack of consensus among the municipalities,states and central government have failed the citizens again.From a 70 years old democracy,the citizens expect political maturity.

The Graded Response Action Plan came into force this year under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to combat air pollution in Delhi NCR. Though,this is moving towards the right direction,there are problems in implementation and evaluation.The plan outlines different mechanisms that should be followed depending on the severity of the pollution level.For example, banning of diesel generators,increase in the parking fees,intensifying public transport services and increasing the frequency of mechanised cleaning and sprinkling of water on roads.The problem of public transport services have become a public outrage.The Delhi Metro fares have been increasing since the last few months.There have been no increase in the Delhi Transport Corporation(DTC) buses. On the other hand,sprinkling of water on roads take place mostly in posh areas.Some of the measures have been carried out without taking the confidence of the people.For example, the parking fees were raised four times as soon as the pollution level soared.

Major Causes

A report from IIT Kharagpur had revealed that 70 per cent of the sources of pollution in Delhi comes from the neighbouring states like Punjab and Haryana(including the National Capital Region).Use of solid fuel in households in the surrounding areas of Delhi accounts for almost 20-25 per cent of fine particles.It has posed a question whether the schemes like Ujjwala Yojana- subsidy transfer of LPGs have failed to reach the rural areas.The implementation of the schemes can see a huge regional disparity.Delhi has a very low percentage of solid fuel usage.But in order to reduce the fine particles,sustain efforts are necessary to replace the solid fuels with LPG in the surrounding areas.

Crop burning in the neighbouring states is considered to be one of the biggest sources of air pollution. An alternative to crop burning was thought about. Earlier this year, a package worth more than Rs 3,000 crore was recommended by one of the task forces set up under CII-NITI Aayog Cleaner Air Initiative. But there was no agreement between the center and the state on the sharing of burden of this newly formulated plan to dissuade the farmers from crop burning. The task force suggested of burning of the waste in a brick and clay dome like structure in the absence of oxygen which will give us a carbon rich residue.The deadlock between the center and state needs to be mediated by a third party.Also,to prevent heavy commercial vehicles from entry in the city, the western and eastern expressway bypass should be completed.

A corrective approach

Studying the recent trends in the pollution level,Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has decided to roll out the Bharat Stage(BS)- VI from April next year, two years earlier from the scheduled date.The BS norms are emission control standards introduced by the government in 2000 to keep a check on air pollution.These standards set specifications/limits for the release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles.Implementation of the BS V standard that was earlier scheduled for 2019 has now been skipped.BS VI, originally proposed to come in by 2024 was later advanced to 2020.

Personal Blog. For details please mail me at observersindia@gmail.com

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