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