Delhi pollution needs long-term steps, targetting select sectors not way forward say experts | The Financial Express

Delhi pollution needs long-term steps, targetting select sectors not way forward, say experts

Is banning BS IV diesel vehicles too little and late for addressing the pollution problem in Delhi? Experts say resuspended dust from broken roads and inadequate waste management are amongst the key aspects that need to be addressed.

Delhi pollution needs long-term steps, targetting select sectors not way forward, say experts
Experts believe that vehicular pollution is only one aspect of the whole issue, waste management a bigger concern. (Photo Credit: Reuters)

As Delhi continues to reel under the effect of severe air pollution, the Commission for Air Quality Management undertook several measures envisaged by Stage IV of the Graded Response Action Plan. But is banning BS IV diesel vehicles enough to address the current situation and stabilise the pollution levels.

According to a study by the Centre of Science and Environment indicates that when pollution concentration from all sources (local, NCR and beyond) are added, Delhi’s vehicles account for nearly 17 per cent of total PM2.5 concentration. If just the local sources are taken into account, the share of vehicular pollution shoots up to almost as high as 50 percent as per the study.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, CSE pointed out that Delhi has close to 1.5 crore registered vehicles (as per the Vahan database) and sees an annual addition of five lakh vehicles a year (of which 97 percent are personal vehicles, mainly two-wheelers and cars), “has failed to build transportation strategies to scale for transformative changes and build an effective public transport system.” With more than 200 lakh population (estimate of World Population Prospect by the UN, 2018), the city is estimated to be generating at least 276 lakh daily travel trips.

However, KK Gandhi, auto and fuel expert and former ED (Technical), SIAM believes “Unfortunately most of the steps that are taken at the moment are more from optics perspective.”

Elaborating on his observations, he says, “ If you look at the available data, the passenger car segment is hardly contributing 0.7-0.8 percent of the particulate matter. However, two-wheelers have a bigger contribution in terms of particulate matter. No one wants to touch the two-wheelers. In my opinion this cannot be the way forward.”

Roychowdhury explains the reason why vehicles have remained a problem despite the enforcement of BS VI emission norms, “This is because the improvement that one is seeing in terms of lower emission is getting negated by the number of vehicles on the road.”

However both the experts believe that vehicular pollution is only one aspect of the whole issue. Even the burning of the agricultural waste in Punjab and the resulting pollution in Delhi is a seasonal aspect. As Roychowdhury outlines, “Waste burning is another key source of pollution.” She believes that there is a need to ensure 100 percent waste collection, segregation and recycling, “ It is important for municipalities to invest adequately in creating an efficient waste management system in the city. Just 50 percent of the wate is actually collected and disposed off in Delhi. Sectoral action and infrastructure level investment is necessary in Delhi.”

Even Gandhi corroborates this aspect and points out how resuspended dust is one of the biggest contributors to high particulate matter, as per most studies, “Most of our roads are broken. Every vehicular movement re-introduces these dust particles back into the environment. Unfortunately no one will touch that as that involves the government directly. The road conditions are quite bad, pavements broken and there is no systematic cleaning of the roads.”

Another key topic that Gandhi touches upon is the regular maintenance of the vehicles and their role in arresting pollution, “ A BS VI vehicle automatically does not mean clean emission. If the vehicle is not maintained properly, even a BS VI vehicle can be more polluting than a BS IV one.”

He points out the lack of effective inspection and certification of vehicles as another critical factor in the overall pollution concentration in Delhi, “Most developed countries have inspection and certification systems for proper maintenance of vehicles, even private vehicles. That’s missing. Even the PUC is not a fool proof certification method. 5 percent of the vehicles are often responsible for almost 50 percent of pollution load so that has to be arrested.”

That said, it is important to note that no city can address its pollution problem only locally. Roychowdury elaborates how the current severe condition in Delhi is a “direct outcome of what’s happening across the Indo-Gangetic plain. There is a lot of regional pollution. Need to ensure there is a regional plan in place with clear accountability and state-level coordination.”

Gandhi says “targetting a particular segment just because they offer good optics is not the way forward.” He signs off identifying five key steps that need to be incorporated for long-term solution to the raging pollution issue in Delhi and elsewhere in the country,

“-Adopting clean fuel across segments

-Upkeep of roads very important to avoid re-suspension of dust

-Proper inspection and certification system for all vehicles including two-wheelers and private vehicles.

-Effective management of farm waste over long-term, stubble burning in Punjab only a 2-3 month phenomenon

-Adequate infrastructure for proper management of pollutants.”

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First published on: 06-11-2022 at 10:14:42 am
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