Delhi draws up checklist to combat its dreadful air pollution

March 01, 2012
Delhi's deadly air pollution

Beijing is not the only the only Asian capital being spurred into action to combat deadly air pollution. The municipal government in Delhi, in conjunction with various NGOs, academics and federal government agencies, has drawn up a checklist of actions that need to be undertaken across various sectors, including power and transport, to improve air quality.

While the Delhi government does no have the same authoritarian ability to act as its Beijing counterpart, act it must. A recently published study found that, on average, India now has the world’s most toxic air, and Delhi has the worst overall air quality among the country’s major cities and tops the league in terms of particular matter according to the Government of India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Although there is no dependable database to track air pollution-related disease and death rates in Delhi, estimates premature deaths at over 10,000 per year. Delhi’s relatively young population means the mortality rate is not as bad as it would otherwise be but, on the other hand, improving air quality would save more life years.

The city’s new checklist is primarily focused on the transport sector that includes improvements to public transport, revision of the parking policy, promotion of pedestrian pathways and reduction of vehicular emissions through stringent action. On the cards is an annual registration for cars, an increase in road tax and a reduction in bus fares.

"Tuesday's meeting threw up several possible steps that we can take to improve air quality. In another week or so we will draw up a roadmap with implementable actions and will periodically follow those up for detailed action. Of course, vehicular pollution emerged as area requiring immediate attention," Keshav Chandra, Secretary for the Environment in Delhi’s municipal government, told the Times of India.

Among the long-term measures that are being mooted to be in force by 2017 are the mandating of Euro V and VI standards for new vehicles and the banning fuel with a higher sulfur content than 10 parts per million.

"Pollution under control checking also needs to be revamped and we need to ensure 100% compliance. In fact, introduction of on-road emission testing for polluting vehicles was also discussed," said an official. He said that pollution from interstate traffic, which has a high proportion of heavily transport vehicles, will be addressed through the on-going development of bypass expressways to the east and west of the city.

With more than 1.7 million vehicles on the road in Delhi, however, the government is also reported to be seriously considering measures to dissuade people from using private vehicles. These include better integration of public transport (centered on the Delhi Metro system), better facilities for pedestrians and prohibitive parking rates.