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Who is responsible for worst air quality in Delhi?

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]elhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is constantly being under attack by the opposition for the air pollution prevailing in the national capital. Air pollution is responsible for around 10,000 to 30,000 deaths in the Delhi every year, the CSE had said in a report last year. Delhi Government sought suggestions from people on how to make the air cleaner in the city – and received 5,000 responses in just one hour. Delhi residents are joining hands; they can come together to make the national capital a cleaner and a better place to live, but the political blame game are closing their way. Now everyone needs to find the solution before there is a heavy casualty. Pollution has already reached a point of being a Public Health Emergency. All constructions and demolitions have been banned for five days, water will be sprinkled on roads and strict action will be taken against the burning of trash. The odd-even road rationing scheme may return, the chief minister said. All schools are closed down by the government for three days.

The hourly AQI (Air Quality Index) of monitoring stations run by CPCB and SAFAR remained 500 plus, which is beyond the maximum limit. Experts said while the level of sulphur dioxide (SO2) is still in control, but other parameters like volume of particulates are in high quantity, the situation was nearly as bad as the infamous London episode ‘the 1952 Great Smog’ that had resulted in around 4,000 premature deaths. The dark grey haze shrouding the Delhi from almost a week. The real-time readings of irrespirable pollutants PM 2.5 and PM 10 breached the safe standards by over 15 times at many places in the morning. Every morning, the citizens of National Capital Region (NCR) wake up to the horror of extreme air pollution.

Pollution is not a new problem, it has existed for years and we are also aware of the major reasons for such dangerous smog. Construction dust is causing huge problem across NCR. Heavy vehicle movements across NCR are one of the major reasons of pollution in the area as no bypass available and vehicles have to go from inside the cities. Diwali Fireworks were added fuel to this problem and there is no law to curb this. If government bans firework by introducing new law then people especially politicians will give religious controversy to it. Slow pace of traffic crawling causes multi fold increase in emission levels, this needs an improvement in road infrastructure and public transportation. Garbage dumping too causes air borne diseases. Half of the Delhi is surrounded by garbage piles.

Huge migration to NCR from almost all of North Indian state is responsible for rising vehicular traffic in Delhi. Create more job opportunities in Tier 2 cities, so that massive migration to NCR for jobs does not happen. This issue cannot be solved by one government agency as multiple states are involved – Delhi, Haryana, UP and Punjab. Without involving in debate and attacking, government should immediately take stern steps in the interest of common people. Actually, right to clean air and water should be our fundamental right and every political party and government should take responsibility by involving people in it.

More than half of Delhi’s particulate matter [2.5] comes from vehicles – either through road dust or exhausts. The road dust comes up primarily when the tyres kick the edge of road or the broken remnants of an overstressed road. Badly maintained diesel vehicles are the biggest source of exhausts. Road dust, secondary particles cause most pollution in Delhi. Delhi had 7.5 million vehicles in 2012 [more than 8.5 million in 2015] and this is easily the largest in India and probably the highest in the world. To put in perspective, this is nearly four times more than Mumbai and nearly five times that of Ahmedabad. The mix of cars in the vehicles is also far more in Delhi. Chennai has a larger percentage of two-wheelers than Delhi.

Delhi is surrounded by a huge rural neighbourhood where biomass is burnt in large quantities as both fuel and waste clearance. Not enough city building in north India has led to lower urban centers. The region from Punjab and Western UP is a huge industrial area and Delhi’s environs have a large number of industries – especially coal power plants. Delhi doesn’t get the benefit of sea breeze like Chennai and other coastal towns. The breeze can drive away some of the pollution. Despite a 200 km long, seven-line metro network carrying 2.4 to 2.8 million commuters on average  every day, private vehicles population  have increased  92% over the last 15 years, even as buses and their ridership declined, according to Delhi Economic Survey 2014-15. Delhi’s transport sector emits 12.39 million tonne of Carbon-dioxide (CO2) equivalent, followed by Greater Bangalore (8.61) and Hyderabad (7.81). The transport sector in Hyderabad emits the greatest proportion (56.86%) of GHG emissions compared to other Indian cities. The transport sector includes motor cycles, scooters, mopeds, cars and jeeps, taxis, buses, light motor vehicles (passengers), light motor vehicles (goods), trucks and lorries, tractors and trailers. Transport emissions of Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai also include emissions from shipping.

Delhi government has already gone for a trial of implementing the odd even rule of using the private vehicles, which hopefully delivers some positive results. But certainly the greatest menace to be tackled is the quality of the fuel being used by the vehicles in Delhi. Furthermore collectively they should address the issue and make the capital city toxin cocktail free.

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Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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