“ Latest WHO report-Delhi no more most polluted city. Congrats Delhiites“- tweeted Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on May 12. In a latest report released by the World Health Organization, Delhi which ranked 1st among the most polluted cities in the world in 2014, has skipped a few places and stands at the 11 th position this year. But before celebrating, let us have a look at the top 5 winners. Zabol in Iran has topped the list followed by four Indian cities – Gwalior, Allahabad, Patna and Raipur. Evidently, there is nothing to rejoice!!
Before crediting the latest policies of the Delhi government to curb air pollution, it should be noted that the report is based on the database available for a period of five years from 2008-2013. As per the report, WHO was able to compare a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013. Some countries and cities could not be evaluated due to a lack of efficient monitoring systems.
Particulate Matter or PM for short, are fine particles that penetrate into our lungs and are a leading cause of most of the premature deaths today. Higher the concentration of PM in the air, more is the exposure of people to health related problems. The major components of PM are sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, black carbon, mineral dust and water.
The 2014 WHO report acted as a wake up call for both the Delhi administration and the apex court, after which a series of steps have been taken to arrest the surge of pollutants in the city’s air. There have been two rounds of the highly publicized odd-even policy this year with promising results.Though significant improvements have been noticed in, both, the air quality as well as road congestion , but the number of exemptions in the second round have neutralized it’s positive effects.
To maintain a level playing field for all the classes of people, the Supreme Court banned the registration of luxury SUVs and diesel cars above 2000 cc in the city. The ban was justified since diesel cars have a larger contribution to air pollution. A green cess or a congestion charge is implemented on all heavy commercial vehicles entering Delhi. The money so collected will be a part of a green fund and will be utilized for improving the public transport system. As a result, the number of heavy vehicles entering Delhi have considerably reduced.
A blanket ban was also issued on diesel cabs plying in the national capital. They were asked to convert to CNG by May 1. But this sparked protests by the cab owners who claimed that such a ban would lead to a loss of livelihood. It was also contended that the BPO industry which heavily relies on these cabs, would suffer and hence the economy of the country as a whole would suffer. Little did they realize that even they were inhaling the poisonous air. Eventually, the SC had to tweak it’s earlier verdict and ordered their gradual phase out with the expiry of their existing permits.
Besides vehicular pollution, a number of factors have contributed to the worsening air quality of the city. The burning of crop residue is one such example. Farmers in Delhi as well as in the neighboring states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan resort to burning the crop residue instead of trying to uproot them. This has an adverse effect on the air quality. Large number of real estate projects being undertaken have added to the miserable situation.
The Delhi government has indeed taken laudable steps to curb air pollution which had started affecting a major section of the population. The people of Delhi brought the AAP to power because of the promises it had made to improve their city and their living conditions, which unfortunately the erstwhile governments failed to do. But as per recent newspaper reports, the political party these days is involved in mud-slinging at their political rivals. This has dwindled the faith of the people in their government. Instead of engaging itself in political skirmishes with the opposition parties, it should continue to do the good work it had promised in its election manifesto. Only then will they regain the faith and confidence of the people.
Looking at the list of world’s most polluted cities in the world, not just New Delhi but all the states should take steps to curb pollution. The aforesaid steps should be emulated at the All- India level with installation of efficient air quality monitoring systems in all the major cities.The latest report is another alarm after the wake up call in 2014.