Pollution in Delhi: How Can It Be Controlled?
November 25, 2014
by Rumani Saikia Phukan
A perennial problem in India is pollution. According to the global Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2014, India has reached a rank of 155, slipped 32 ranks from the previous year, and it is disheartening to hear that Delhi, the national capital of the country, is being tagged as one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world. It is the world’s worst city for air pollution. Thus, today, one of the biggest threats to the welfare of the people of Delhi and the city as a whole is pollution of various types.
Classification of pollution in Delhi
- Air pollution
- Noise pollution
- Water pollution
- Domestic waste
- Industrial waste
- Vehicular pollution
- Hospital waste
- Solid waste etc.
Causes of pollution in Delhi
- Growing population of the city. The pressure and haphazard growth of the population is deteriorating the environment.
- There has been highly haphazard and unplanned development of industries and factories. Studies have revealed that only about 20% of the industrial units are set up in the approved industrial areas whereas the rest of them are in residential and commercial areas.
- There has been a huge rise in the vehicular population, in spite of the metro railways, aggravating traffic congestion and increasing air and noise pollution. It has also been reported that the number of vehicles plying on the roads of Delhi is more than that of the three metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai taken together.
- There has also been an ever-increasing number of diesel vehicles plying on the roads, which are largely responsible for the air pollution.
- It has been reported by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) that everyday almost 8,000 m tonnes of solid waste is being generated in Delhi. Plus we also have the industrial hazardous and non-hazardous waste. On an average, everyday, the MCDs and the NDMC manage to clear about 5,000-5,500 m tonnes of garbage. This results in the accumulation of more and more garbage in the city.
- There has been no proper technology or methods to treat solid, liquid, waste water, industrial and hospital wastes in the city.
- There has been too much dependence on fossil fuels like coal-fired power plants, improper use of energy in buildings and the excessive use of biomass for cooking and heating, etc
Particulate matter for measuring pollution
One way of measuring pollution is by the measure of particulate matter. Particulate matter is basically a mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets like acids, chemicals, gas, water, metals, soil dust particles, etc., the measurement of which gives an idea of the pollution of a city. It is also known as particle pollution or PM.
Pollution in Delhi: Facts and figures
- According to the Ambient Air Pollution (AAP) report for the year 2014, Delhi had PM 2.5 pollution levels, which is the highest in the world, followed by Beijing. This result was based on the monitoring of PM measurement of outdoor air pollution from almost 1,600 cities in 91 countries.
- The highest concentration of PM 2.5 form of air pollution is supposed to be a very serious matter and can lead to respiratory diseases and other health problems like lung cancer.
- According to the WHO, air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India.
- Carbon monoxide (CO), a dangerous gas emission, is around 6,000 microgram per cubic metre in Delhi, which is much above the the safe level of 2,000 microgram per cubic metre.
- The level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has also been increasing.
- According to the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) is 121, which is described as “poor.” The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality, about how clean or polluted the air is.
Government’s steps to control pollution in Delhi
- There are mobile enforcement teams deployed at various locations for monitoring polluting vehicles and vehicles not having PUC certificates.
- A Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) is being constructed with the aim of providing a non-polluting, useful and affordable rail-based mass rapid transit system for Delhi, integrated with other modes of transport.
- With a view to reducing vehicular pollution, there has been a ban imposed on the plying of more than 15 years old commercial/transport vehicles, taxis and autos that run on conventional fuels, including diesel driven city buses.
- There has also been tightening of mass emission standards for new vehicles.
- The quality of the fuel being supplied in Delhi has been significantly improved over the years by the ban of selling leaded petrol, introduction of low sulphur diesel, reduction of sulphur and benzene content in petrol.
- There has been regular placement of dustbins, purchase of additional front-end loaders, mechanical sweepers, dumper placers, tipper trucks, to collect and dispose of garbage.
- Steps are taken to transform garbage into compost by developing new sanitary land-fill sites.
- The Delhi Government has constituted a committee to implement the Bio-Medical Waste (management and handling) Rules, 1998.
- The Delhi Degradable Plastic Bag (Manufacture, Sale and Usage) and Garbage (Control) Act 2000 has been enacted for banning the manufacture and use of plastic bags, etc.
It’s not that the Government is not taking steps to control pollution in Delhi. But we need proper and efficient implementation of plans and programmes and policies launched by the Government.
How can citizens of Delhi help in reducing pollution?
Pollution in Delhi is a perpetual problem which need to be looked upon as a serious issue not only by the Government but also by the citizens of the city.
- One of the easiest ways is that there should be an efficient involvement of Resident Welfare Associations in various localities in collection, segregation of garbage from houses and the societies.
- Citizens can take steps to covert the garbage into compost in their localities.
- More and more trees must be planted in every locality.
- Every individual should keep a proper check on the pollution level of their vehicles.
- Making more use of CNG.
- One of the best ways to control pollution is to manage wastes of all types in a proper manner.
- Each and every citizen should abide by the 3Rs: Recycle, Reuse, Reduce.
- More and more people should use bus and metro instead of cars and scooters, as they can carry a lot more people in one journey. Car pool is also a good option.
- Controlling the use of energy and making use of electricity in an efficient manner.
- One can also reduce water pollution by reducing the use of chemicals, cleaning agents, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.
It is the duty of every citizen to think in a broader perspective to control pollution. We really don’t want our future generations to live in an unhealthy environment in Delhi. We really don’t want our children or our elders to get into incessant coughing due to pollution. Like we say charity begins at home, I take a pledge to do what I can for my environment and protect it to the best I can. If each one of us takes a pledge to do our bit for our environment, I am sure Delhi will be a better place to live in. Even a small step counts…
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IMPACTS OF AUTOMOBILE POLLUTION
Before 1970 air and water pollution were considered serious problems. Noise and nuclear pollutions were added to these too – and ozone too. The smog that reduced the visibility in Malaysia and Mexico City and later the smog that engulfed the Los Angeles Valley in California in 1970 compelled the world to rise from the slumber. This photochemical smog was caused by the automobiles emitting different gases. Formerly only carbon dioxide was considered as the culprit. Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides were added to the list. Scientifically it was proved that the problem was severe as the sum of these three pollutants can create havoc. That is what we are observing throughout the world as automobiles are considered the most convenient source of travel.
In 1999 the numbers of vehicles in India were estimated at 35 million. It was expected to be 53 million by the end of 2000.3.6 million vehicles are produced per year. The older vehicles emit more gases. This damage can hardly be rectified. In a few decades India may become not only a super vehicular country in the world but a super vehicle polluted country too.
We have generally been talking about the levels and density of air pollution by different gases in India. No attempts were made to calculate the economic costs. A recent study by the World Bank officials reveals that damage to environment costs our country about 10 billion dollars every year. Urban air pollution affects the peoples’ health to the extent of $ 2.1 billion. Soil degradation costs agricultural output to $2.3 billion. Health is already a problem in India that is yet a developing country. Because of growing population the people suffer from more infectious diseases. 80 to 90 % of all cancers are because of environmental hazards.
Looking to the fate of people in developing countries California has taken strict action about the manufacture of non polluting engines, Ultra Light Emission vehicles and zero emission vehicles. In India toot he vehicle manufacturers are improving their engine designs. Oil companies too are improving in the fuel and are supplying low sulphur diesel and unleaded petrol. The Supreme Court too has passed interim orders that vehicle owners shall conform to Euro I norms and Euro II norms. Thus in the National Capital Region from May 1, 1999 registration was restricted to 250 diesel and 1250 petrol Euro I vehicles a month. Later on no vehicle will be registered if the vehicle does not conform to Euro II norms. Euro I regulate emission in Europe in terms of weight of pollutants expelled every kilometer. Euro II means a shift from the carburetor to the multi- point fuel injections in piston rings, wiring harness and engine design. In India it would cost an extra Rs. 30,000 to Rs.50, 000 per four wheeler. Almost all the states are making efforts in this direction and the manufacturers are cooperating. Naturally, the problem is to be tackled scientifically with the cooperation of the authorities, oil companies, automobile manufacturers, transport industry and the society. We have to save the coming generations from this ever increasing pollution.
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