A report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) reveals a marked improvement in Delhi's air quality this year as overall particulate matter (PM) pollution has reduced by 25 per cent. However, more local efforts are required to bring down the pollution level to 65 per cent.
The CSE has recently conducted a granular analysis of the air quality data of the last 10 years provided by the Central Pollution Control Board and found that the pollution level of pollution this year is lower than that of the previous years.
Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Director of the CSE, said, “Delhi has managed to bend the pollution curb through its transition to cleaner fuel."
Elaborating on the reasons behind the spectacular achievement of the National Capital, she pointed out that three (thermal) power plants with a 1,245 megawatts generating capacity were shut. Dirty fuels like pet coke, furnace oil and coal were banned.
“As a result of these measures,” Anumita said, “a massive transition to natural gas happened not only in the transportation sector but also in the industrial sector. BSVI fuel has already arrived and has been scaled up in the city."
Other measures that helped in realisation of cleaner air include regulation of trucks entering the city, ban on 10-year-old trucks and environmental cess on them and last but not the least, reduction in the use of diesel generators.
Apart from these, a cashless tax collection system based on RFID (radio frequency identification) improved cess collection.
All these measures have immensely helped in improving the air quality of Delhi, she concluded.
The director the CSE, however, cautioned that in order to meet the clean air standards, pollution load should be reduced by another 65 per cent. That could bring in more disruptive measures.
The CSE explained that the reason for the rise in pollution after mid-October remains the same. They said cold wind coming in Delhi. No wind-no dispersion, this situation would choke Delhi-NCR.
Pollution from stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana contribute about 5-7 percent to Delhi's pollution load but could go up if there is a wind blowing down from the north. But the main sources of pollution are still local, the CSE said in its report.
The graded response action plan (GRAP), which came into effect from October 15, requires every city in the National Capital Region (NCR) to act. Roy Chowdhury said enforcement of the GRAP will be crucial for curbing pollution this winter.
Pollution hotspots in NCR will be a key focus this year. There are 14 such areas where pollution levels exceed the city average. These areas have high pollution because of the burning of municipal solid waste and industrial waste.
As per the CSE, the only way to reduce the remaining 65 per cent of pollution is by ensuring that local sources of pollution are kept in check. For this local action plans will have to be implemented in these pollution hotspots which are enforceable.
Meanwhile, stubble burning and open waste burning have continued in Delhi-NCR region and no solid administrative steps have been taken to stop the nuisance.