No silver bullet for Delhi's pollution woes

Delhi will have to work with a mix of short and medium-term measures to tackle its ever increasing pollution problems

Photo for representational purpose only Photo for representational purpose only

As Delhi grapples to find solutions to its ever increasing pollution problems, experts point out that there is no silver bullet to solve the problem.

The city will have to work with a mix of short and medium-term measures.

Anumita Roychowdhury, Head of the Air Pollution Team at Centre for Science and Environment or CSE told BT that Delhi needs to reduce the growing dependence on personal vehicles that is adding to toxic pollution within its breathing zone, scale up integrated public transport systems with efficient last mile connectivity, walk and cycle infrastructure.

"Simultaneously Delhi will have to recover the true cost of owning and using a car through taxes. Use parking management and high parking charges to disincentivise car usage."

Hem H Dholakia, Research Associate at CEEW agrees that comprehensive urban and transport planning is key.  

"Traffic management, moving to Bharat VI standards, capping vehicle numbers are some of the supply side options. These measures can be supplemented through demand side measures - such as levying congestion fees (as in cities like London), increasing parking charges and encouraging car-pooling. Improving the capacity, service quality and safety of public transport systems and promoting non-motorised transport will also help in combating pollution problem in Delhi."

Sumit Sharma, Fellow & Area Convenor, Centre for Environmental Studies, TERI says Delhi needs a long-term plan for control of emissions vis--vis the growth of vehicular fleet.

"There is no reason why we should not move to the best vehicular technologies (BS-VI norms) and fuel quality (10 ppm sulphur fuels)."

Strong pollution control measures are needed for other polluting sources as well.

Experts say that power plants need tighter standards and stringent pollution control.

"Enforcing dust control in construction activities and also ensuring that nearly the entire construction and demolition waste is recycled and brought back to construction, would go a long way in combating the problem. Also compost vegetative waste should be reused and not burned. This action plan needs to gather momentum. Otherwise Delhi will continue to lose its air quality gains from the past action," said Roychowdhury

Aishwarya Madineni, campaigner, Climate and Energy Team, Greenpeace, said that it's about time that we recognise that the problem is not just local but regional.

"The burning of crop residue and coal-fired power plants in the regions of Punjab and Haryana has also been established as a major reason for Delhi's soaring pollution levels. There is a significant capacity of coal-fired power plants within an aerial distance of 100 km from the city operating without any emission control standards for sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides."

The government needs to put in place emission control standards for thermal power plants immediately in order to reduce their overall contribution to the rising particulate matter levels in the city, Madineni suggested.