Metro Matters: Can’t fight air pollution emergency by apportioning blame

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Delhi – It has been six straight days since the Delhi’s air pollution spiked and remained stuck at a severe level, blaming the current weather for the haze – but it was just an aggravator.

The pollution could rise to 450+ on a scale of 500 on the National Air Quality Index because the base was at that point already high. Unless during the monsoon period, the city’s air pollution levels remain peak in the scope of 200-300+ on the Index for the most part of the year. While “moderate” days are rare, “great” and “satisfactory” are rarer. “Poor” and “very poor” days have become more frequent.

Delhi made a late call

Delhi’s air pollution is a harmful blend of vehicular emissions, dust from construction sites, smoke from trash and bush burning, and smokes from thermal plants and production lines. These actions go unregulated annually. It’s just when it’s too late – the toxic air worsens to dangerous smog in winter – that Delhi dialed the emergency button.

Last week, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) ordered diverse organizations to enforce clean air measures under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), they were hesitant and poorly prepared. It made a little difference that EPCA was under an official sponsorship and that all offices organizations had an entire year to prepare.

The regions opposed to increasing parking fee citing bureaucratese. However, in all sincerity, the corporation never had any control over its agencies to implement any parking amendment. The new approach which provides a fee increase for residential parking that is free could have given a better alternative. But the arrangement has been in progress since the birth of this year.

Diesel trucks were temporarily prohibited from entering the city. However, the ones not bound for Delhi could have effortlessly skirted the national capital throughout the year if the highways were ready. Cleared for construction since 2005, the western part of the ring road is still not yet accessible.

Delhi is choking on construction dust

The city is an interminable development project where more flyovers, roads, pavements, shopping mall, houses and metro lines keep springing up. While Delhi loves to construct, it hardly ever follows site management safety protocols to minimize dust pollution.

Debris are usually removed after construction activities. But materials like sand, finer concrete, cement, etc. are left on the site.

Every one of us knows the underlying factors behind Delhi’s air pollution. The authorities and stakeholders continue quibbling over insights, pointing fingers at each other but they fail to understand that blaming each other is not the best way to hand an emergency.