Delhi-NCR air pollution reach alarming levels, but no advisory, emergency plan from govt

- Delhi’s Air Quality Index is at 500+ (hazardous stage).
- The level of particulate matter is at 955 umg/m3 which is 16 times higher than the permissible limit.
- Delhi is facing the worst smog in 17 years.

And…the worst is yet to come!

Five days post-Diwali, Delhi continues to be a ‘toxic gas chamber’.

There is no respite for children who continue to suffer due to hazardous air pollution that has reached alarming level. Whether it is dawn or midnight, the national capital remains under the cloud of thick smog.
Despite the study by Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI), Kolkata along with Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showing that 40% of Delhi kids have weak lungs, why did the government fail to take any precautionary measure ahead of festive season?

It’s not for the first time that Delhi has witnessed such egregious air quality; it’s almost a decade since Delhi’s air quality gradually started worsening to alarming levels. But, the last three years have been particularly bad.

Answers needed

- Why no health advisory was issued prior to Diwali for the citizens of Delhi-NCR?
- Why there is no emergency action?
- Why there is no action plan to deal with this perennial crisis?

“It’s an emergency-like situation in Delhi-NCR. Why has the government not issued any health advisory yet?” questioned Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

 Delhi-NCR air pollution reach alarming levels, but no advisory, emergency plan from govt

Vehicles on smog covered road in New Delhi. PTI

“Post-Diwali, the condition has worsened in Delhi-NCR as the pollution level in air has reached a dangerous level. Delhi government got one full year to plan and act, but we failed to hear anything from them. It’s a lost opportunity. Moreover, there is no emergency action, despite the situation having reached an alarming stage. It has become a regular practice in Delhi every winter, citizens, especially children, have to face the brunt. The agencies may talk of various measures, but the ultimate test of any action is its impact on air quality. It’s missing in Delhi,” added Roychowdhury, who also heads the air pollution programme at CSE.

According to experts, the government should have short-term, mid-term and long-term action plans to combat the air pollution menace in the national capital, which has taken the shape of a monster. Though Delhi has been suffering due to worsening air pollution, no strategy has yet been developed to counter it. Every year, children and adults, are compelled to breathe noxious gases and hazardous particulates, with no fault of their own.

What are the pollutants?

- Vehicular pollution.
- Burning of crop stubble in neigbouring states, and burning of garbage and waste in the city.
- Dust and construction debris.
- Industrial pollution — from thermal plants in Delhi.
- Burning of crackers.

Lack of political will and concrete planning both at national and state level have compounded the crisis. The motor vehicle fleet of Delhi is more than that of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai put together — and it’s growing every day.

Delhi’s neighbouring states like Haryana, Punjab and UP continue to burn crop wastes without any inhibition, and smoke emanating from it is a major component in the formation of smog over Delhi. It even reduces the visibility of aircraft, as has recently been reported.

“While my flight was advancing towards the IGI Airport, I could see through the window a blanket of thick smog over the ground and runway. After stepping out, I could feel irritation in my eyes and nose. It’s so horrifying,” a senior World Bank official, who arrived from New York on Wednesday, told Firstpost.

Environmentalists have attributed the cause of the menace to the government’s myopic attitude and decision-making, and lack of political will.

“Government has a lot of baseline data but there is no action plan for a complete year. Political statements and piece-meal action won’t help. There’s lack of serious political decision-making and now it has led to a big crisis. Delhi has virtually become a toxic gas chamber,” remarked Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxics Link, an environmental NGO.

“Air-pollution is not just Delhi’s problem. It’s pan-India. But, there is no national plan to deal with it. Central agencies have powers to initiate action, but it’s missing. Eventually, people have been left on their fate to deal it themselves,” he added.

Recently, Delhi’s Transport Minister Satyendar Jain had announced that giant air purifiers would be installed at certain public locations in Delhi, which experts have dubbed as impractical. “Air purifier is best suited for enclosed places like offices, homes etc,” an expert said.

Ram Rahman, artist-activist and founding member of Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, who lives in Delhi’s Civil Lines said, “The air quality has deteriorated so much this time that I had to spend Rs 35,000 to buy an air-purifier at home. And, I’m not the only person doing so, there are many who suffer from respiratory ailments have been compelled to go for air-purifiers. Whatever precautionary measures like not burning crackers, etc. have been taken, it’s at a personal level. But, what about the government? Due to growing number of vehicles, Delhi has reached the point of explosion.”

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Updated Date: Nov 04, 2016 13:22:34 IST