Is Delhi's New Plan To Combat Air Pollution As Innovative As We Think? - Homegrown

Is Delhi's New Plan To Combat Air Pollution As Innovative As We Think?

A study released by the World Health Organisation last May revealed that the air in Delhi was twice as toxic as the air in Beijing, a city that has been considered to be the world's most polluted for years now. In the course of one year, the situation has only worsened. Recent reports by the Centre for Science and Environment suggest that there has been a seven-fold increase in pollution since October, with particulate matter readings well above the permissible limit.
The readings are alarming, especially if you take into consideration the fact that permanent lung damage, one of the many after effects of air pollution, causes 1.3 million deaths annually—which means that air pollution is the second biggest killer in India, after heart disease. The Delhi High Court, alarmed by these readings, said that living in Delhi was like living in a gas chamber, and asked the Aam Aami Party (AAP) government to come up with an effective plan by December 21. A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva termed the action plans filed by the environment ministry and Delhi government as 'not comprehensive' as they did not contain specific responsibilities of each authority and the timeline for carrying them out.Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for an emergency meeting following this, and they managed to chalk out a plan that could effectively cut down vehicular pollution levels by half after taking notes from countries around the world. They have announced that as of January, vehicles with odd and even registration numbers will be allowed on Delhi roads on alternate days, thereby cutting down the number of private vehicles ploughing the capital's streets everyday.
Chief Secretary K K Sharma said the government has decided to shut down the Badarpur Thermal power station and will move the National Green Tribunal to close the Dadri power plant which falls in Uttar Pradesh. He also said that the government will carry out a massive plantation drive along all the arterial roads across the city from April 4. Through this, they hope to curb the spread of dust while ensuring vacuum cleaning of the roads conducted by the Public Works Department.
In order to try and reduce traffic, the government plans to allow movement of trucks only after 11 pm. This will go a long way because, slowing down of overall vehicular movement is a major contributing factor to increased harmful emissions. They have also suggested that it must be made mandatory for vehicles to have Euro VI standards from 2017, which is two years before the centre's scheduled introduction of the same.
"Every year pollution levels increase in winter. From January 1, 2016, odd and even numbered vehicles will run on alternate days. Alternate arrangements are being made to bolster public transport. DTC buses, Metro services will ply extra. We are still working out the modalities," said the Chief Secretary.

Public transport bodies such as Delhi Transport Corporation and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation would be asked to increase the frequency of their services to tackle an expected spike in numbers of commuters. Vehicles without Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates would be strictly barred from plying and entering the city's premises by officials of the Transport Department. "Even vehicles with PUC, but visibly causing pollution would be restricted," Sharma added.
In order to ensure that efficiency of this plan, even private vehicles that bear registration numbers issued by neighbouring states will have to follow the odd-even number formula. Earlier this year, the Kejriwal government had introduced Car-Free Day in select areas as a way to improve public transportation. While the idea did not really work, there is a good chance that this might change in the coming months. The government has announced that it will organise another Car-Free Day across the national capital on January 22.
They plan to prepare a blue print so as to help implement the measures, after holding talks with key stakeholders, including traffic police, transport department and The Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The recently launched Swachh Delhi app will be modified, making it possible for people to send images of biomass burning or other sources of pollution to concerned authorities. While speaking at the 13th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, he said that they wanted to redesign road and fix public transport, for which they wished to bring in 10,000 new buses. He hopes that the project will be completed in 4-5 months.But, it is also important to remember that what we really need is a holistic approach that keeps the interests of the public in mind. If you study the effects of license-plate bans in countries that have adopted similar methods, you will find that it does not prove to be effective in the long run, because even with efficient implementation, the outcome could be completely contradict the effect intended. With such a restriction in place, motorists would have no incentive to invest in cleaner cars with particle filters or catalysts. People would simply start buying second cars that are often old inefficient ones to get around the ban.
While the government's acknowledgement of this issue is commendable, overnight plans and decisions have a history of failing. What we need is to really study the situation. Several studies have shown that low emission zones (LEZs) , hundreds of which now operate in Europe since Stockholm implemented the first in 1996, are a more effective way of decreasing the contribution of traffic to air pollution. LEZs ban inefficient vehicles from city centres, forcing drivers to upgrade their cars.  If they are used alongside inner-city congestion charges, as in London, we could help create a much larger impact.
RC Bhargava, the Maruti Suzuki chairman said that the major pollution in Delhi is from PM 2.5 and there is virtually no emission of this from petrol cars. What this means is that we need to understand who the contributors to the pollution are, before we make a move. And of course, the plan we have at hand also, would only work if all aspects of it came together at once— a strong penalty, a vigilant and honest force to help implement the rules and an efficient and steady system of public transportation.

Words: Krupa Joseph

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