There is political will to implement bold steps to tackle pollution in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at "Daring Cities 2020" conference on Wednesday, asserting the odd-even scheme by his government brought down pollution in India's national capital by about 15 per cent.
He said the Delhi government has in the past five years taken several measures to tackle the twin problems of climate change and air pollution. The conference was organised by City of Bonn and ICLEI, with the support of the German government. Mr Kejriwal was one of the five urban leaders around the world to speak at the conference, a global, action-oriented forum to recognise courageous urban leaders taking bold climate action across the world.
Mr Kejriwal was invited alongside urban leaders and decision-makers from Bogota (Colombia), Sao Paolo (Brazil), Los Angles (USA), and Entebbe (Uganda) to discuss multilevel action to tackle the climate emergency and environmental sustainability. The Delhi chief minister addressed the conference virtually, explaining the multilevel action taken by his government to tackle climate change and pollution in the city.
"In the last five years in Delhi, we have taken several measures to tackle the twin problems of climate change and air pollution in Delhi and we propose to take several measures in the next five years to further reduce pollution," he said. Citing improvement in air quality in many places in the world where lockdown was imposed due to COVID-19, Mr Kejriwal said it has made us realise how human beings are responsible for spoiling the climate and tampering the ecosystem.
"In an effort to devise sustainable solutions to crop stubble burning, we have joined hands with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute to bring in the bio-decomposer technique," he said, hoping the technique will solve the crisis of air pollution faced by Delhi in winter season.
He said the his government is also working towards shifting to renewable sources of energy and focusing on mega tree planation. Last year, more than six million saplings were planted with the participation of ordinary people and school children, he added. "We have recently launched an electrical vehicle policy, under which our target is within 2024, nearly 25 per cent of vehicles purchased in Delhi should be electric," the Chief minister said.
Mr Kejriwal quoted some of the initiatives taken by the Delhi government to control and respond to the climate emergency like introducing odd-even schemes, shutting down of thermal power plants, banning the use of polluting fuels, and starting a mega green drive.
"We have taken some very bold and imaginative steps in the last five years. By sharing these experiences I want to say the political will is there to implement bold steps in Delhi," he stated. He said when his government launched the odd-even scheme in winters of 2015-16, he was cautioned that it will be "politically suicidal" because people do not appreciate harsh measures.
"In many parts of the world, this scheme was implemented with mixed results. Many political people cautioned me when we implemented this scheme. It was a harsh step and could have been politically suicidal for us because people will not appreciate it. Since then, we have implemented the odd-even scheme three times in Delhi. We saw people voluntarily participating in the scheme."
He said even fines for the violation of the odd-even road rationing scheme for vehicles was "negligible", showing it was voluntarily accepted by people in Delhi. Public transport has been given a huge push by the Delhi government and it is working to double the bus fleet in next few years, Mr Kejriwal said.
He said the government also brought out a strict policy to make the shift to non-polluting fuel by industries. Now almost all the industries of Delhi have shifted to non-polluting fuel, he claimed. Mr Kejriwal said the Indian Agricultural Research Institute recently come out with a chemical solution that can be sprayed over the crop residue as a bio-decomposer technique.
The Delhi government will sprinkle the chemical solution free of cost in the farm fields of the state to avoid stubble burning, he said.