Delhi smog lifts partially-Vivek Chattopadhyay
-Down to Earth
Pollution build up in recent days corresponded with peak traffic hours and freight movement
The dense smog enveloping Delhi over the past few days lifted partially on November 6, but it may return with renewed vigour, as the factors causing it remain in force, warned Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
CSE has reviewed the magnitude and severity of the smog. Its researchers say that while every winter, the calm and cool weather leads to a heavier pollution load on Delhi, this year, the capital is seeing a massive growth in actual pollution levels. The levels of respirable particulate matter (PM10) have surged 47 per cent—from 191 microgramme per cubic metre in 2000 to 281 microgramme per cubic metre in 2011. In the same period, nitrogen dioxide levels have increased from 41.8 microgramme per cubic metre to 66 microgramme per cubic metre (a 57 per cent jump).
This hike in pollution levels has led to the creation of the deadly smog. Says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director in charge of the air pollution and transportation programme at CSE: “Unfortunately, despite the scary hard facts about the elevated cocktail of pollution and health risks, the problem is being dismissed as a mere weather phenomenon. In other parts of the world, governments issue warnings and take pollution emergency measures during such severe pollution episodes to protect public health. But we are doing nothing.”
The pollution build up corresponds with peak traffic hours and freight movement. Data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee in different localities shows that pollution levels go up significantly during peak traffic hours compared to off-peak hours. For instance:
* In R K Puram, Mandir marg and Civil Lines, both PM 2.5 and NOx concentrations are high during peak hours.
* Pollution levels are extremely high in Anand Vihar which witnesses very heavy traffic due to a lot of inter-state movement of vehicles.
* In Civil Lines, PM2.5 levels are very high even during night; this could be due to the movement of goods traffic
What needs to be done
* Delhi must speed up implementation of the second generation action plan to meet air quality standards.
* Scale up and integrate public transport systems. Augment walking and cycling facilities for green commuting and public transport integration.
* Accelerate emissions standards roadmap for clean vehicles and fuels to cut emissions at source. Stop dieselization and its toxic effects.
* Physically remove visibly smoking vehicles. Enforce emissions checks on in-use vehicles.
* Regulate and reduce the daily influx of traffic from outside. Augment intercity public transport connectivity and ridership. Restrict entry of non-destined goods vehicles to Delhi.
* Use smog alert system for effective measures.
* Draw up action plan for other pollution sources as well – make pollution control more stringent in power plants and in remaining industrial units.
* Implement ban on open burning inside and outside the city