Air pollution in Delhi: In the hopes for a clear blue sky

Source: The post is based on the article “In the hopes for a clear blue sky” published in The Hindu on 10th November 2022.  

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environmental pollution and degradation.

Relevance: About air pollution in Delhi.

News: Pollution-related curbs in Delhi were lifted and schools opened, despite air quality continuing to be in the “very poor” category.

What are the reason for air pollution in Delhi?

Multiple studies over the years found that the rapid growth in Delhi’s population, industrialisation and urbanisation, and increase in motorised private vehicle fleet led to the high concentration of air pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone. For instance, as of 2011, the population of Delhi and NCR was 25.8 million or 7.6% of India’s urban population.

Other reasons: a) Delhi still has one of the biggest clusters of small-scale industries, b) Delhi still does not have the required public bus fleet vis-a-vis demand, c) The daily waste generation rate in Delhi is over 10,000 tons, the capacity of its already overflowing landfills to collect and manage garbage is under 6,000 tons. This leads to the practice of burning waste around residential areas and d) Stubble burning in neighbouring states and e) Lower availability of autos: Supreme Court capped two-stroke auto rickshaws to 55,000. This led to lower availability of autos in the city. This led to increased private vehicle ownership.

Read more: Reasons behind Delhi’s air pollution as per CSE report
What are the steps taken so far to curb air pollution in Delhi?

-In March 1995, the Supreme Court, noted that Delhi was the world’s fourth most polluted city in terms of concentration of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the ambient atmosphere as per the World Health Organization’s 1989 report. The Court took note of two polluting factors — vehicles and industries.

– In 1996 the court ordered the closure and relocation of over 1,300 highly-polluting industries from Delhi’s residential areas beyond the National Capital Region (NCR) in a phased manner. The court in another instance, asked the Delhi government to submit an action plan to curb pollution.

-After the submission of action plan, the court asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (now the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change — MoEFCC) to establish an authority for Delhi. This led to the creation of the Environmental Pollution Control Authority of Delhi NCR (EPCA) in 1998.

-Based on the recommendation of EPCA, the court ordered the Delhi Trasport Corporation (DTC) bus fleet, taxis, and autos to switch to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), and phasing out of all pre-1990 autos.

Later the Centre decided to establish a network of monitoring stations under the National Air Quality Programme (NAMP) to measure key pollutants.

-Under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) specified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), pollutants like PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter exceeding 10 microns), sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides were measured.

-In 2017 MoEFCC came out with the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which involved coordination between multiple agencies in Delhi to activate pollution control measures corresponding to the increasing Air Quality Index (AQI) levels

Read more: National Clean Air Programme(NCAP)

A large proportion of polluting sources are present all year round in Delhi and high pollution levels are mainly witnessed in winter months due to unfavourable meteorological conditions. So, a coordinated response factoring in all aspects of Delhi’s pollution has to be taken to reduce air pollution in Delhi.

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