Delhi: Why temporary measures will not work to tackle high level of air pollution

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New Delhi, Nov 9: As Delhi continues to choke due to severe air pollution, the government agencies are coming up with measures to tackle the situation. However, experts say most of these steps implemented by various government bodies are short-term and temporary and are unlikely to have any impact.

"In these bad air days, temporary measures will not work," stated a press release by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

delhi pollution

The Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) must focus on taking decisive steps which will have immediate as well as long-term impacts. This requires political leadership, which is sorely lacking at the moment, says Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.

Experts also cautioned against putting too much hope in temporary solutions such as closure of schools to tackle the emergency situation.

Narain added: "Cities and administrations need to implement solutions and take bold decisions to reduce emissions. The range of actions recommended and directed by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Tuesday is targeted at doing just that, and it is now up to the political leadership of Delhi and NCR to take their implementation forward."

Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE's executive director-research and advocacy, added: "This is not a time for temporary measures and actions. We believe that the decision to close schools is only a temporary measure at best.

"What is important is to prevent children from exposure, from breathing in the polluted air--in fact, closed schools may trigger greater exposure as children take to spending their free time playing outdoors!"

The CSE has cited a few steps to be taken by the government authorities:

Massive augmentation of public transport
While the bus system in Delhi can hardly be said to have been ideal at any given point in history, it currently faces a grave crisis which, if not acknowledged and resolved, will result in the gradual death of a system that has formed the backbone of the city's commuting needs over the past decade.

Since 2013, bus ridership has been declining at an average rate of 9 per cent per annum. Overall, it has dropped by as much as 34 per cent. According to the latest data available (November 2016 statistics), the system handles 30.33 lakh passengers daily. At the same time, bus numbers also dwindled due to scrappage and lack of replacement.

Says Roychowdhury: "Delhi Metro alone cannot provide the needed connectivity to all parts of the city. Therefore, we need to urgently revive bus services by adding more buses and improving frequency. A massive augmentation of public transport within and inter-city is needed. Not a single bus has been procured in Delhi over the last three years. This has only added to the pollution crisis."

Ban polluting fuels
The Delhi government needs to issue a notification clearly mentioning which are the polluting fuels that are banned in Delhi and which are the acceptable fuels -- there should not be any ambiguity on this. Similar steps needs to be taken by the other NCR states.

Drastic action is needed to immediately ban pet coke and furnace oil in the entire NCR. We need stringent monitoring of emissions in industrial estates and as well as from illegal industries.

A massive switch-over to gas is needed in vehicles, power plants and industry. The region needs a second transition to natural gas and clean fuels. We must prioritise transition to electric vehicles, and ensure supply of reliable power to stop the use of gen-sets.

Stop crop residue burning
The recurring crop residue burning and its impact on air quality in Delhi-NCR shows that the issue cannot be resolved unless and until a strong political leadership and commitment is demonstrated by the northern states and the NCR region.

CSE researchers say that it is completely unacceptable that crop residue which is actually a resource, is wasted by burning and adds to the deteriorating air quality in the region.

Refuse burning and dust
Increased vigilance, penalties, systematic solutions and enforcement of regulations are needed across the Delhi-NCR, point out CSE researchers.

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