Sunday passed, Diwali passed, what didn’t pass were the dangerous amounts of toxic gasses into the air. Experts say the level of pollution in the air after Diwali has been by far the worst they’ve seen, with the toxic gasses crossing the danger mark!
What needs to done to keep the alarming rise in pollution in check and who should be blamed for it?
Though the Delhi government had begun taking some measures to help decrease the pollution in the city, however years of apathy, ignorance and denial of the rising problem amidst both citizens and the governments have led Delhi to such a state.
“Government initiatives will not help if there is no citizen partnership. It is important to step up awareness campaigns by involving the medical community putting out hard health evidence in the public domain to sensitise people about the harmful effects of firecrackers,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment.
On Monday, the Delhi government sat down and reviewed a detailed analysis of the pollution levels in the city. A special check was conducted in order to prevent the increasing sales of firecrackers according to a source in the environment department.
After the assessment on the rise in air pollution and the health hazard that coincide, the state government has yet to come up with a ‘radical and a long-term solution’. Last winter, the government had implemented odd-even road rationing scheme but they have been unsuccessful at replicating the exercise they claimed to be a big success last winter.
This year, before Diwali, 12 teams – one for each district – had been formed to ensure a controlled sale on firecrackers across the Capital. The government had also announced the installation of outdoor air purifiers and mist fountains at five of the harshly hit locations across the city.
“The winters are especially bad for the city because of a spike in stubble and waste burning cases in and around Delhi apart from of course the cracker burning during Diwali. The department is chalking out measures to control the rising pollution levels during the winters and we are taking awareness programmes to schools and residential neighborhoods,” said a senior environment department official.
Under pressure from the courts, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced several anti-pollution measures last December. However, the second round was reintroduced in April this year.
“The odd-even scheme was definitely a much needed measure. We have studies which prove that pollution levels during its first stint in December went down considerably. But the point is that it still is an emergency measure and we need some comprehensive and long-term measure to control the levels,” said Bhure Lal, chairperson of the Supreme Court-appointed body, Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
He claims that before being able to tackle the pollution levels in the city, it’s crucial to understand where it is coming from, what are the sources. Delhi’s pollution comes from a variety of factors, such as varied fuel types used by vehicles, burning waste, road and construction dust and traffic congestion which hits the roof when the temperature lowers, burning of crop residue and biomass.
Our closest competitors, Beijing, introduced the odd-even vehicle rationing ahead of the 2008 Olympics. In 2015, it formalized car-pooling and have rules for their operation.
Cities like London began charging cars upon entering its eight square miles central district back in 2003. The amount that was collected was used in strengthening the public transport system in the city so as to promote public transport over private vehicles.
“If we give people alternatives of a comfortable public transport system and at the same time introduce measures such as congestion taxes then you can easily bring down the number of vehicles on the road. We have to first get a strong policy and only then we will be able get citizens on board,” Bhure Lal said.