‘Air much bet­ter, but can’t feel change as con­di­tion so bad’

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - Ri­[email protected] times­group.com

New Delhi: While laud­ing the re­duc­tion in pol­lu­tion lev­els in the city over the last few years, thanks mainly to the co­or­di­nated ef­forts of var­i­ous govern­ments and agen­cies, ex­perts main­tain that there is no rea­son to cel­e­brate yet.

An anal­y­sis of the an­nual air qual­ity data sub­mit­ted by Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board to Par­lia­ment, and quoted by chief min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal on Fri­day, points out that the three-year av­er­age of PM2.5 (tiny, res­pirable par­ti­cles) be­tween 2016 and 2018 is 25% lower than the 2012-2014 base­line pe­riod. From an av­er­age PM2.5 read­ing of 154 mi­cro­gram per cu­bic me­tre, it has re­duced to 115 mi­cro­gram per cu­bic me­tre, it states.

An­u­mita Roy­chowd­hury, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, re­search and ad­vo­cacy, Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment, in­sists there is a long way to go. “It is a substantia­l re­duc­tion, but you don’t feel (it) so much be­cause the lev­els were so high. This data gives us confidence that if you act, you will get re­sults. But more needs to be done,” Roy­chowd­hury said.

CSE had ear­lier pointed out that there was a need for more broad-based and stronger ac­tion at the re­gional level to pre­vent win­ter pol­lu­tion from wors­en­ing. “This sta­bil­i­sa­tion has been pos­si­ble be­cause of multi-sec­tor in­ter­ven­tion to clean up the ve­hi­cle fleet and fu­els, tight­en­ing of in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion con­trol and the phase-out of dirty in­dus­trial fu­els (pet coke, fur­nace oil and coal), shut­ting down of coal power plants in the city, ac­tion on brick kilns and hotspot ar­eas, and dust con­trol at con­struc­tion sites with some ef­forts to con­trol pol­lu­tion from waste,” Roy­chowd­hury said.

How­ever, CSE had cau­tioned that even af­ter this re­duc­tion and sta­bil­i­sa­tion, Delhi faced the daunt­ing chal­lenge of a 65% re­duc­tion from the cur­rent base­line to meet the clean air stan­dards for PM2.5.

“Even af­ter achiev­ing this, the chal­lenge still re­mains. It is now time for hard de­ci­sions and dis­rup­tive ac­tions, across the re­gion. Big­ger chal­lenge is en­force­ment and com­pli­ance,” she said.

Echo­ing her sen­ti­ments, Di­pankar Saha, for­mer head of CPCB’s air qual­ity lab­o­ra­tory, said th­ese were wel­come signs, but more needed to be done.

“We can’t ig­nore data, when it’s been gen­er­ated us­ing in­ter­na­tional pro­to­col and prac­tices. There’s sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the ground level emissions con­trol, but fur­ther im­prove­ment is pos­si­ble by cre­at­ing grassy open ar­eas, be­sides putting all reg­u­la­tory mea­sures in place. Sim­i­lar strate­gies are must not only for en­tire NCR but also be­yond,” Saha said.

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