NEW DELHI: A study, conducted by the CPCB and a Kolkata-based cancer institute, reveals that the number of patients admitted in the respiratory wards of Delhi’s hospitals has increased by 79 per cent—from 2,160 cases in 2003-04 to 3,873 in 2013-14.
It covered 11,628 schoolchildren from 36 schools across the city. Besides, the study on air pollution affecting Delhi’s around 44 lakh schoolchildren revealed that most of them will suffer irreversible lung damage by the time they become adults. The environment ministry has issued a 40-point action plan that includes regulation of construction and establishment of continuous air quality monitoring stations in the most-polluted places. However, the Kejriwal government has done precious little to tackle the peril. It clearly shows a lack of will in implementing the possible—air purifiers were installed to protect the lungs of President Barack Obama who was the chief guest during the Republic Day parade. According to Max Planck Society, a leading research organisation that operates a number of research institutes in Germany, New Delhi is set to record in the highest premature deaths from air pollution by 2025.
The state government, which is concentrating mainly on attacking Delhi Police and the Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung over control of the state, has taken few measures over emission monitoring of brick kilns, stone crushers and mineral grinding, which are major contributors to air toxicity. No continuous air quality monitoring stations in industrial zones have been set up. The prevention of the overloading of goods vehicles and encouraging multi-level parking (see story on page 4) to decongest roads remains on paper. Regulation of construction and demolition of buildings—a major author of dust pollution—and compliance to rules are yet to be fulfilled. The state government and the Centre had sparred over the proposed construction of Eastern and Western expressways—the AAP government accused the Centre of delaying the project deliberately. Ironically, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, the state government clapped. The expressway intends to keep heavily-loaded vehicles away from city limits. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a three-year deadline for completing the project.
According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Delhi government has been engaged in an exhaustive “consultation process” for the last eight months. CSE has submitted suggestions to the Delhi Government, which is sitting on them. The Centre has held five rounds of meetings with the environment ministers of Delhi and the neighbouring states to tackle pollution, but no action is forthcoming. The state government was supposed to install online monitoring maps in polluting spaces including industrial areas and on city roads with high traffic density by July, but it hasn’t happened. Plans to put in place an automatic number plate recognition system to check ‘non-destined’ vehicles to the city remains on paper. “The alarming rise in respiratory diseases is because of the toxic air we are breathing,” says S M Pahwa, former chief medical officer of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital. The NGT’s direction on the 14-point action agenda that includes community surveillance of violation of pollution laws, prohibition of parking on carriage ways, implementation of cycle tracks and a ban on 15-year-old commercial vehicles are in different phases of implementation but execution is lax.
A senior official in the Paryavaran Bhawan admits Delhi’s pollution problem has to be tackled through a multi-pronged approach but the initiative is not forthcoming. As per last count, the city has over 84 lakh registered vehicles; 1,500 more vehicles are added to its roads every day. The NCR townships, full of smelters, tanneries, textile and chemical manufacturing plants and paper units are further contributing to the capital’s PM2.5 density.
The share of the toxic discharge from Noida and Ghaziabad could be 44 per cent while from Gurgaon and Faridabad could be about 22 per cent. Despite repeated Central directives, the Delhi government has failed to implement clauses in the concrete one-year action plan. Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain told The Sunday Standard that “our government is very serious about checking air pollution. We are taking all initiatives, small, short-term and long-term to reduce it. Our target this year is to plant 15 lakh saplings across the city.” He claimed the air pollution in the city during Diwali was down by 25 per cent. However, readings by the System of Air quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), suggested pollution levels were 23 times higher.
Delhi Govt’s green Goals
■ Continuous air quality monitoring plan: In process
■ Complete utilisation of municipal solid waste on concept of ‘zero waste’: Not implemented
■ Prevention of municipal waste, leaf, tyre burning: Implemented
Issuance of stringent fully computerized PUC system: Failed to implement
■ Synchronisation of traffic signals: Not implemented
■ Ensuring switching off vehicles at traffic signals: Not implemented
■ Compulsory lane driving: Implemented
■ Preventing over loading of goods vehicles: Not implemented
■ Ensuring covering of trucks carrying building materials and waste: Implemented
■ Encouragement of multi-level parking: Not implemented
■ Regulation of construction and demolition to control air pollution: In process
■ Mechanical harvesting for minimizing the stubble and bio-mass burning: Not implemented
■ Setting up WhatsApp web for information on burning of organic wastes: Not implemented
■ Emission monitoring in brick kilns, stones crushers and mineral grinding: Not implemented
■ Use of fly ash mandatory for NCR so as to reduce use of coal in brick kilns: Not implemented
■ Extension of metro services in NCR cities: In process
■ Prevention of stubble burning by converting this into RDF, briquettes for use of power generation: Not implemented
■ Introduction of EURO-6 by 2018-2020 in NCR: Not implemented
■ Conversion of organic waste into methane and supply the same to operate public transport vehicles: Not implemented
■ Promotion of battery operated vehicles: Implemented
■ Western and Eastern Expressway to give bypass to non-Delhi destined vehicles: In process
■ Strict emission standards for coal/gas-based thermal power plants: Not implemented
With Sumit Kumar Singh