Monday, August 16, 2010

Pollution Under Control: Delhi

While most other projects might be behind schedule, Delhi seems to have things under control as far as pollution levels during the Games are concerned, at least for now.

What works for the city is that unlike China for instance, Delhi had already put into place pollution mitigation measures before it was decided to hold the Games here. It also has an elaborate plan to ensure that pollution levels come down further by October.

However, experts say that October is a difficult month for Delhi with pollution levels starting to rise with the onset of winter and it is essential that it has a back-up plan, preferably with regard to its vehicular population since it is single-handedly undoing the benefits that have been derived from other pollution control methods.

Anumita Roychoudhury, director of Centre for Science and Environment’s Right to Clean Air Programme says Delhi has an advantage over other cities as it is extremely green and already has a plan of action in place.

‘‘We have analyzed the pollution data for October 2009 and seen that there have been several days when levels of pollutants were more than permissible. There has to be a concerted effort in reducing those days and if all works well, there is a high possibility that the government’s plan succeeds. However, it has to be prepared with a contingency plan,’’ she said.

Roy choudhury outlined that during the Games, there would be dedicated lanes for Games traffic that would throw all other traffic completely out of gear by limiting space.

‘‘For both pollution and congestion control, Delhi will need traffic volume reduction plan. While public transport will have to be scaled up, ways will also have to be found to reduce the overall traffic volume. I strongly believe they must use parking restrictions in the city and high parking charges to dissuade people from bringing their cars out and connect those areas with frequent high speed buses and para transit,’’ she added.

The capital’s programme for dealing with its air pollution problem has encompassed several issues. Government officials say that air quality monitoring and forecasting, specially during the Games, is high on their list of priorities.

‘‘Other than vehicles, we have addressed many other problems. Pollution industries have been moved out, clean fuel has been introduced, old vehicles have been phased out, coal power plants have been shut, pollution checks are taking place, CNG has been a huge success and a cess on diesel has been imposed. We agree that the number of vehicles is too high but we are not a dictatorship and cannot put a cap on that number yet,’’ said a senior official.

Action taken by Delhi government so far

Introduction of Bharat Stage (BS) IV fuels

Only BS IV compliant four wheelers and BS III compliant two and three-wheelers are permitted in the city

Independent fuel-testing laboratories have been set up to check fuel adulteration

No. of three-wheelers capped

Commercial vehicles older than 15 years phased out

Implemented largest ever CNG-based public transport programme Allowed registration of only CNG light and medium duty vehicles to reduce diesel pollution

Cess imposed on diesel

Relocated polluting units

IP thermal power station closed

Asked CPCB to notify standards for SOx and NOx

Prohibited burning of leaves

New ambient air quality standards have been adopted