Pollution – What are the solutions?

Pollution in Metros

A new study on air pollution in Delhi by a team of researchers led by the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom has found that Delhi suffers from a “toxic blend of geography, growth, poor energy sources and unfavorable weather that boosts its dangerously high levels of air pollution.

w_pg1-kEVG--621x414@LiveMintRecently Delhi Govt. has announced a new program to curb vehicular pollution in Delhi i.e. vehicles with Odd and Even number plates will commute on alternate days in the city from January 1st. This decision has been taken in the backdrop of HC referring to Delhi as a “ gas chamber”.

In the past, 15 odd cities with the rising pollution have tried the formula. While some cities have shown general reduction in pollution; the policy has also failed in many other cities. We know that Delhi pollution levels are off the roof and some drastic measures needs to be taken. Hence the discussion that How realistic is this rule and how it will be implemented?

The first and the foremost question is that if the cars are taken away; how would those people commute. The issue being that Public transportation system in Delhi is not that strong. Also, Buses and metro are already overcrowded to accommodate these people. `

The new proposal does not answer such questions. This decision seems to be taken in hurry. Probably more thought needs to be given on the requirement analysis, implementation, and the consequences of this decision. This program should be implemented on pilot basis first . The idea should be applicable on Sundays ( as no essential trips on Sunday). If successful then it should be applicable on Saturday as well . The result should be recorded and then a framework shall be designed to get it implemented on large scale.

There is another paradigm which is usually ignored i.e. Car pollution levels. Hence cars should regularly get their pollution level monitored. Another reason which adds to the pollution level is the slow speed of cars because the roads in Delhi are encroached with so many vehicles. Also public spaces are being used for parking cars ,which leads to congestion on roads and increases the time period a car is on road; thereby increasing vehicular pollution.

According to Delhi Government “ they are forced to take up this step because it is a public emergency”.Till now only the courts have taken major decisions regarding pollution eg various judgments like M C Mehta where leather tanneries were banned .Also in 1993 Supreme Court said that all the public transport in Delhi should be transferred to CNG. These were all done by Supreme Court and not by the Govt as these are referred to as unpopular decision as no Govt wants to take such decisions and reduce their vote banks. According to Delhi Govt they are the first ones to take such bold decision .Delhi Govt also claims that all they need is cooperation from residents in Delhi and still If this scheme fails they will take full responsibility

Experts also suggest that before taking up such a decision the Police force should have been taken in confidence as without police this is highly unlikely to be implemented. The underlying issue being that proper guidelines have not been developed yet. May be some other traffic reduction schemes & devices could have been used first. (e.g. in Singapore no new vehicle comes on road without condemning the previous one.) License plates and registration is auctioned. The start up proposal for Delhi could consist of such small changes and then probably with a designed framework they could have moved on to the odd even formula.

AAP (Aam Admi Party) Govt justifies by saying that talks are still going on with the Central Govt regarding the proposal. Delhi Police being under the Home ministry shall be directed by the ministry to fall in line and not the Delhi Govt. Also since NGT says vehicle is the major source of pollution ; hence the even odd formula especially for vehicles.

Another big question is the safety measures if the public transportation system becomes more crowded . for eg. Women being groped in peak traffic hours. There are no specific guidelines to control all this. Also, only 12 % of Delhi citizens have access to metro. So what are the alternate public transport systems in place?

If we talk of extreme measures why is there ban only on diesel operated cars? Why we do not explore the possibilities of trucks operated on gas (CNG). Another drastic measure could be that diesel selling petrol stations could be banned.

The solution to this issue is that first of all the background study needs to be in place. The major pollutants needs to be identified and then a framework should be devised to curb it. The report regarding this is available in public domain. Hence, Public opinion should be sought as well. Rather than politicizing the issue the Govt. should work towards cleaner and greener Delhi.

Even the best technology will not succeed in reducing emissions and improving air quality if it is not considered in a broader framework of development. Hence, there should be all-round solutions instead of just focusing on vehicular pollution.

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