[LokSabha TV Insights] Air Pollution in Delhi

  • Submit level discussion will be held between PM Narendra Modi and US President Obama, where it is expected that US help for Delhi’s air pollution will be sought. Delhi is considered to be most polluted city in World. Concentration of Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, and Particulate Matter 10 & 2.5 is many times higher than WHO safety standards. Pollution in Delhi is mainly vehicular and as a result source of emissions is extremely close to people. Fact that 55% of Delhites live within 500 m from roads make situation more dangerous.
  • Delhi’s pollution was declining due to introduction of CNG for public transport till 2004-2005, but now situation has reversed. This is due to rapidly increasing purchasing power, Better roads and infrastructure, safety concerns, immigration and overall growing economy in the capital. Spread of metro has made little difference as it fails to provide last mile connectivity. Further, routes of metro are being planned as per existing road routes. Focus should be on to connect places which were earlier not connected. There are also safety concerns which make people prefer private vehicles. As a result per day registration is Delhi has shot up to 1400 vehicles in 2014 from 500 in 2005. In last decade Delhi saw phenomenal growth in flyovers, under bridges etc. This has resulted tremendous increase in private vehicles.
  • Surprisingly, Delhi has just 11 air monitoring centers and these too are unplanned. So we can’t have overall air pollution estimates for Delhi. Further, these are manually operated which leaves ample scope of negligence and faulty results. Vehicular air pollution norms are flouted as no actual inspection of emission is done while giving air pollution certificates. Government has outsourced this to private players who just charge money in return for certificate. We need atleast one air monitoring station for every few square kms and also road sides or mobile air monitoring stations.
  • Delhi’s parking charges are quite low as compared to other parts of world. Parking charges should be increased to discourage people from using private vehicles. Same goes for taxation. Cars are taxed only once, while buses are taxed quarterly. Revenue from these taxes and collections should go to fund clean fuel technologies. China has put limit on number of cars that can be registered (and bought) in Beijing and this has worked, but India can’t do this. So progressive taxation, as per polluter pays principle is best bet.
  • Delhi, as we know is ancient city and it is developed in many stages of history. Its development was non coherent, piecemeal and unplanned. This has resulted in wasteful travel time as many of interior areas are choked. So further planning should more concentrate on planning of public transport. Further, there has to be adequate waste disposal technologies. There should be winter homes for homeless people; otherwise they are forced to burn whatever they find.
  • Environment is common resource pool for everyone, but it is victim of what is called ‘tragedies of commons’. Everyone needs clean one and ample of it, but it is available for free, so no one cares for it. When an industry pollutes environment, profit by its activities is reaped by investor, but price in sense of degradation of environment (Air, Water, Soil) is paid by whole mankind. Now, vehicles in Delhi are owned by upper few percentiles, but major cost is paid by people who live on footpath. These people already have extremely low nutritional levels and they are more vulnerable to pollution. But unfortunately, despite their large numbers, they fail to demand healthy environment in democratic discourse. This is perhaps because they are more worried about immediate concerns such as food, clothing, shelter, employment etc.

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