Even the high and mighty living in the posh areas of Delhi, including Lutyens’ Zone, are not safe from the alarming levels of air pollution that plagues the national capital, advocacy group CSE said today as it called for stringent steps for making the air more breathable for Delhiites.
Releasing data on the daily dose of polluted air that people inhale in the national capital, particularly during winters, Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, “As you do your morning walk in that so-called fresh air, you are actually breathing in air which is thick and heavy with particulate pollution.
“You are not safe from polluted air even within the confines of your homes or workplaces.”
Narain said that the study by CSE proves that “President Pranab Mukherjee and the Prime Minister are breathing dirty air during winter season”.
“Our data in Lutyens’ Delhi shows very high levels of pollution,” she added while calling for tough measures to control pollution.
Sharing the details of the study, Narain said that a select group of prominent citizens of Delhi and patients suffering from asthma took part in the monitoring exercise which was carried out suing state-of-the-art equipment. The portable, dust-track aerosol monitor measures both mass and size of the particulate matter.
Twenty four-hour real-time monitoring for each individual from the select group was carried out on assigned days in the period between November and December 9, 2014 as part of the study.
Their average exposure was compared with the background ambient levels monitored by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee at the nearest official monitoring station.
“The key lesson from this exercise is that exposure monitoring has to complement ambient monitoring to refine pollution control measures… as pollution levels, especially when linked with traffic, vary widely within the city,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, at CSE and the head of its air pollution control team.
Harish Salve, senior advocate in Supreme Court and the amicus curiae in the ongoing air pollution case in the court, was part of the select group of Delhiites who participated in the monitoring exercise.
“Salve, who lives in Vasant Vihar close to Outer Ring Road, recorded the highest exposure between 10-11 P.M. on Nov. 25-26 when the hourly average of PM 2.5 was about 408 microgramme per cubic metre. The level continued to remain elevated all through the night,” claims the CSE study.
It said that individuals are exposed to the highest pollution levels during the night and early in the morning.
Narain said that the areas of Delhi where one would assume pollution levels to be low are actually as bad as any other locality on winter mornings.
She blamed the diesel vehicles and trucks coming to Delhi from different parts of the country for the dirty air, particularly during morning hours. Narain also said schools in Delhi should be closed on smoggy days.
“India still doesn’t have uniform Euro-IV norms. So, the fuel that the trucks bring in is very dirty,” Narain said.
The study warned that winter pollution is back this year with a vengeance.
“Almost throughout the month of November and December, 2014, the levels of PM 2.5 have remained, on average, at least three-four times the 24-hourly standard of 60 microgramme per cubic metre.
“Higher averages are reaching up to four-to-seven times the standard and smog episode peaks hit eight to 10 times the standard. This is extremely dangerous for people suffering from asthma and other respiratory and cardiac problems, and also for children and the elderly,” CSE said.
It suggested various means, including fiscal measures, to keep clean fuels like CNG competitive vis-a-vis diesel and stringent measures for on-road and older vehicles. It asked the government to stop farm fires in the NCR region.
“Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region. Need stringent enforcement under the Air Act, 1980, to ban farm fires,” CSE said.