Another winter arrives, and so does poor air quality of Delhi. The capital of India has been suffering from air pollution for many years now. Owing to this, the city has been consistently gaining the top position in the world in the list of most polluted cities.
Delhi has been adopting various techniques to control the pollution every year. Some of them have been proven quite effective. Even so, the pollution levels are so high, that the city continues to suffer through poor air quality. On this National Pollution Control Day, let us look at the case of China which has effectively worked to defeat air pollution.
China’s War Against Air Pollution
It was during the 2008 Beijing Olympics that China started to take significant action to reduce air pollution. This was mainly because of the concerns regarding the impact of air pollution on athlete performance. To address these concerns, the Chinese government placed restrictions on polluting activities. In fact, before the games about 300,000 high polluting vehicles were phased out, major construction activities were halted, and hundreds of factories and power plants were shut down.
This brought about an extraordinary change. Air quality during the Games improved by about 30% compared to the previous year. Even this short-term improvement led to significant health benefits. Observing the results, five years later, the Chinese government declared its “war on pollution” with the launch of a national action plan. This introduced a raft of new measures including better regulation of polluting activities, factories relocating from populated areas, and government providing subsidies to farmers to discourage agricultural burning.
These measures have made a lasting impact. Air quality improved by 35% in the highly polluted northern Chinese cities between 2013 and 2017. While there is a long way to go for the country before it resolves this issue, it is at a great start.
Delhi’s plan to tackle air pollution this year
In order to combat air pollution in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced a 10-point “winter action plan” that focuses on dust control, using the Pusa bio-decomposer, installing smog towers and checking waste burning and vehicular emissions. He has urged the neighbouring states to retrofit thermal power plants in NCR areas with new technology and ensure the use of CNG-operated vehicles and cleaner fuel in industries in the region.
“The Delhi government has provided a solution to the problem of stubble burning the Pusa bio-decomposer. We hope it will be used as much as possible,” he said.
Kejriwal said the Delhi government has formed 75 teams for the inspection of construction sites to control dust pollution and 250 teams to keep a check on waste burning.
“We have imposed a complete ban on the sale and purchase of firecrackers. The smog tower (at Connaught Place) has yielded good results so far. We will continue to monitor its performance and then take a call on constructing more such towers in Delhi,” the CM said.
Special teams have been formed to monitor pollution hotspots. Steps will also be taken to address traffic jams on 64 identified roads to reduce vehicular pollution. As many as 500 teams have been constituted to check Pollution Under Control certificates, he said.
Kejriwal said strengthening of green war rooms and a public campaign will also be part of the “winter action plan”. “A programme management unit has been set up in the green war room with the help of the University of Chicago and GDI Partners and 50 environmental engineers have been inducted into it,” he said.
The country’s first eco-park to manage e-waste is being set up in Delhi, he added. The chief minister said following in the footsteps of Delhi, the NCR areas should also ensure the use of clean fuel in thermal power plants and other industries, CNG-operated vehicles, hotspot monitoring and round-the-clock power supply to prevent the use of diesel generators.
The Need for Collaborative Effort to Fight Air Pollution
Mr. Amit Banka, Founder and CEO, WeNaturalists on the occasion of National Pollution Control Day said, “The air quality in various parts of the country is dangerously close to being hazardous due to stubble burning, waste incineration, diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles as well as power plants. Now’s the time for serious interventions to improve our air quality index (AQI).
Crop burning is a major one in North India – it’s time to provide farmers with alternatives like promoting “low lignocellulosic” crops, using manure and decomposition, using new machines and technologies, etc. We need infrastructure in place to adopt public transport facilities, promote cycling and walking as a substitute to vehicles wherever the environment is conducive, adopt other sustainable modes of transport like EVs. While EVs do come with a carbon footprint, their presence can reduce air pollution.
We need stringent policies that improve the quality of commercial vehicles to decarbonize the economy. It’s imperative for us to shift to renewable energy and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The production of energy is causing the maximum pollution.
With solar power becoming affordable and our opportunity to shift to green hydrogen, it’s imperative that consumption is promoted at a large scale. This will help in the reliance on coal-powered plants and subsequently reduce air pollution.
It’s necessary for us to consistently look for ways to reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution with innovative solutions. Most importantly, nothing can beat creating awareness among people to reduce consumption, using local produce and trying to implement nature-positive solutions as much as possible in our daily lives. One thing will lead to the other, and I’m sure we’ll find the solutions we need. Let’s come together and make a difference!