New Delhi: The Air Quality Index (AQI) on Thursday in most areas came down to ‘poor’ levels from Wednesday’s ‘Very Poor’ reading, thanks to the sporadic showers across the national capital region on Wednesday. Now, to curb the pollution levels further, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) in its latest recommendations, have asked New Delhi to consider a ban on all private vehicles except ones running on CNG or at least implement odd-even scheme in the national capital as an immediate measure.
In a letter to the Central Pollution Control Board and Graded Response Action Plan Task Force, EPCA chairman Bhure Lal said that the odd-even scheme practised in other countries to control pollution is implemented for extended hours and all private vehicles are included. He said,
To curb pollution levels in the national capital region, the only option is to look at either complete ban on all private vehicles other than CNG or restriction of plying by number plate (odd-even). It should be noted that the odd-even scheme, as practised in other cities for similar pollution abatement, is done for extended hours and includes all private vehicles.
Mr Lal even cited the examples of Paris and Beijing, which impose strict restrictions on private vehicles. He stated that the restrictions were based either on the basis of number plate (odd-even or similar schemes) or by type of fuel or the age of the vehicle.
For a week now, the air quality in Delhi and its neighbouring cities – Gurugram (Gurgaon), Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Greater Noida – has been oscillating between “very poor” and “severe”, and “hazardous” levels. The morning after Diwali, Delhiites woke up to a blanket of haze created by thick smoke from the firecrackers, in some regions of the national capital, especially the eastern parts. The Air Quality Index (AQI) shot up to 999 in Anand Vihar and areas around Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium (the maximum level the monitors can record), that’s almost double the upper limit of what’s considered ‘hazardous’. According to World Health Organisation’s recommendations, an AQI between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”. Anything above that is considered “hazardous”.
Mr Lal had previously written to the Delhi government as well as the pollution control body, stating that if pollution continues to rise then Delhi has no other option but to stop the use of private and commercial vehicles other than those plying on CNG.
Mr Lal also said that he understands the restriction on plying of private vehicles without adequate public transport would create “huge inconvenience” to people but Delhi needs to understand that these remaining vehicles add up to substantial load, particularly private diesel vehicles which contribute substantially to both NOx (nitrogen oxides) and PM (particulate matter) emission.
Highlighting the contribution made by the private vehicles in Delhi’s polluted air, Mr Lal added,
As much as 40 per cent of the total emission load in Delhi and roughly 30 per cent in neighbouring cities is due to private vehicles. In this situation, a complete ban on all private vehicles other than CNG and/or restriction on plying by number plate (odd-even) will only help in curbing the rising levels of pollution in the city.
Mr Lal concluded his recommendation by requesting the CPCB-led task force to deliberate on this matter and give its recommendations at the earliest.
Currently, there has been some respite to the citizens of Delhi, but the air quality is still far from being safe. Even, the newly released study titled “Perception Study on Air Quality” by the ASAR Social Impact Advisors, which works on social and environmental issues, states so. According to it, about 89 per cent people living in Delhi feel sickness or discomfort due to the bad air quality and most of the people believe vehicles and felling of trees are the major causes behind pollution.
According to Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting (SAFAR), the overall Air Quality Index of New Delhi was recorded at 342 at around 9:09 am on Thursday as compared to 419 on the previous day. The AQI around Lodhi Road recorded PM 10 levels at 200 and PM 2.5 levels at 336. While, PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels around the Delhi University were recorded slightly higher with 259 and 345 respectively.
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