A WHO study of 1600 cities across the World has revealed that Delhi is the World’s worst city for air pollution.
The main causes of air pollution in Delhi and NCR identified by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) are :-
* burning of plastic and other wastes including agriculture/horticulture waste in the open.
* pollution resulting from construction and other allied activities.
* pollution resulting from vehicular traffic and industrial pollution.
However, the biggest culprit is vehicular traffic and car ownership.
Delhi alone has more than 7.5 million registered vehicles and more than 1500 personal vehicles being added everyday in Delhi alone of which, more than 50% are diesel vehicles.
More than 80,000 trucks run on diesel travel through Delhi between 8 pm and 6am every night on their way to other cities in the north, west, east and south contributing to 60% of the air pollution in Delhi.
After the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) orders to the Delhi and the Union Governments to take immediate steps to control air pollution in Delhi and NCR, the Ministry of Environment has set a three month deadline for controlling pollution in Delhi/NCR by taking following steps :-
- Banning polluting vehicles from entering Delhi by strict checking
- Imposing cess on trucks only passing through Delhi to avoid toll otherwise payable on highways by passing Delhi
- Banning 10 year old diesel vehicles
- Turning coal fired electricity producing plants to gas plants
- Banning burning of leaves and grass by making it illegal
- Amend the motor vehicles Act
- Train sanitation workers to comply with environmental rules and implement them
The Delhi Government also proposes to implement Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung’s high powered committee’s action plan as below:-
- Rupees one cess to be imposed on purchase of every pack of cigarettes and each bottle of liquor to create a Urban Transport fund to fight pollution
- Traffic police to make PUC (pollution under control certificate) stickers mandatory for buying petrol/diesel
- Entry of non-destined vehicles to Delhi to be regulated and cess to be imposed
- New parking policy to be implemented, where parking fees to be revised
- Battery operated vehicles for last mile connectivity and DMRC (Delhi Metro) to introduce 8 coach rakes before 2017
All the above steps once implemented by the Government will go a long way in controlling air pollution in Delhi but these are not a permanent solution to the problem until they stop registering new cars and trucks that too diesel powered. With more than 1500 new vehicles being registered every day in Delhi alone, the traffic on the roads will put tremendous pressure on the existing roads and no amount of widening of the roads or constructing new roads and flyovers will solve the problems of traffic jams and pollution.
Some recent steps taken by the Delhi Government to bring down pollution levels immediately like the much touted Odd/Even scheme was a complete failure. It only compounded the harassment caused to all sections of the society with its exemptions and encouraged honest citizens to resort to cheat by using fake CNG stickers or using fake registration plates for both odd and even days. Further there was no appreciable decrease in pollution levels, though a large decrease in traffic congestion and commuting time was seen which brings home the fact that the Delhi roads cannot handle the volume of vehicles on it. Thankfully the odd/even scheme is only a temporary measure and the citizens of Delhi/NCR hope they will not have to go through any more odd/even days.
The Government would do well to take some long standing measures as follows immediately:-
*stop registering new diesel vehicles
* encourage manufacture of vehicles run on green fuels like electricity, CNG etc by heavily subsidising them so that they are cheaper than diesel and petrol powered vehicles allowing existing owners of polluting vehicles to switch over to these environmental friendly vehicles
* convert one lane along all major roads into bicycle tracks with fencing to prevent motorised vehicles encroaching into bicycle tracks.
*strict implementation of lane driving culture by creating separate lanes for heavy vehicles, cars and motorised two wheelers
*good maintenance of roads and traffic signals
However, controlling pollution is not the responsibility of the Government alone but also the responsibility of every citizen of Delhi/NCR and each and every citizen can contribute to the efforts to control pollution by doing the following :-
- Avoid the car where you can walk, take a public transport like the Metro where available
- Follow traffic and road safety rules voluntarily without waiting to be told by the policeman
- Keep a constant check on your vehicle to see that it is non polluting
If all the above measures are implemented sincerely, there is no reason why the pollution levels cannot be brought down and Delhi will once again be the green city it once was.