Delhi Pollution: Authorities Huddle Up To Clear The Air
Many a key development were given a cold shoulder by the media as Delhi’s killer smog hung thing over the city skies, also branching out to parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. This was the news that made headlines throughout the first week of November. This forced authorities – the Supreme Court, the Centre and states – to spring on their feet and try and find out ways to address the menace. It is hard to say how fruitful these desperate measures, including a rerun of the odd-even scheme, will be.
Slow poison that spread fast
Even before the winters set in, the uninvited smog was back in Delhi, affecting the daily lives of its citizens, especially the ones who have health issues such as asthma and the like. At 12 midday on November 10, Punjabi Bagh’s air quality was recorded ‘hazardous’ because particulate matter (PM10) was hitting 836. The safe standard of PM10 stands at 100.
Also read: Delhi-NCR Gets New Common Pollution Codes
What is Delhi doing to tackle the issue?
1) The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has banned construction and industrial activities and entry of trucks in the national capital till November 14.
2) Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana have also been asked to ensure that no crop residue is burnt.
3) Construction work has been put on hold till further notice. However, the daily wage labourers would be compensated.
4) There is a ban on the entry of diesel trucks in the city that are over 10 years old. No vehicle from outside or within Delhi is permitted to transport any construction material.
5) Industrial activities that cause emissions have also been put on hold.
6) Odd-even rule for vehicles has been brought back for five days starting November 14. Senior citizens and women are exempted.
7) The NGT has said there should be regular cleaning of roads with vaccum clears so that the particulate matter does not rise.
8) As an emergency measure, the Delhi Metro and the three municipal corporations have hiked their parking rates. You now have to pay Rs 80 for parking your vehicle for an hour.
9) The Uttar Pradesh government is studying the feasibility of a personalised transit system.
10) Most schools in the capital city remain shut.
Dealing with pollution in 2016
Last year, the Supreme Court brought in various codes, similar to that in Beijing, to identify the severity of pollution in various zones of Delhi and vicinity which could be categorised into moderate to poor, very poor, severe, very severe or emergency. The odd-even formula for vehicles on the road followed soon after, amid a debate on its efficacy. However, with visibility dipping below 200 metres, the air quality was severely poor in Anand Vihar, Punjabi Bagh, Mandir Marg and RK Puram areas of the national capital, various other strategies such as a ban on construction, shutdown of schools and launching of apps to monitor air quality followed soon after.
Besides, diesel generator sets had been banned for 10 days, except at hospitals; power supply to unauthorised colonies was taken care of by the Delhi government. Amin vacuum cleaning of roads and the sprinkling of water, coal-based power plant at Badarpur was closed for some time. There were also talks about engineered, artificial rains. Meanwhile, the NGT had directed Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi to coordinate and cooperate to improve the quality of air in the region.
Ban on construction feasible?
Last year, developers’ body CREDAI had expressed displeasure at this move. At a time when project delays cost real estate dearly, measures such as this added to the existing delay. According to the body, crop burning in the neighbouring states and strategic landscaping would put an end to this menace. But, a temporary ban on construction looked inevitable.
In 2016, the Delhi government also recovered approximately Rs 2 crore as penalty from those who were violating dust pollution norms since November 2015, and the NGT directed that these penalties could be levied on individuals to the tune of Rs 5,000 per person or up to Rs 5 lakh on developers for violating dust pollution norms.
Is it too late?
Perhaps, yes. Environmentalists and activists feel that the measures are too little to affect the dimension of this problem. At most, it temporarily addresses the issue when the air quality reaches an alarming level. How long can we go on with this? Experts feel that a target-oriented action is the need of the hour to arrive at a long-term solution.
Also read: Want To Rent Air Purifiers? Here You Go