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Monday, December 6, 2021

Current issues in india 2021 :- Delhi-NCR air pollution: the need for coordination

Air pollution is no longer a problem only of Delhi and its corporations, but the National Capital Region (NCR) is also involved in this problem. According to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, the Center and four NCR states will have to work together to deal with this problem.

It is a large airshed of pollution which includes Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and even Alwar region of Rajasthan.
In geography, an airshed is defined as an area that shares common characteristics with respect to the spread of atmospheric pollutants. In other words, an area that shares a common flow of air is called an airshed. According to experts, the measures taken to reduce air pollution in Delhi need to be implemented across the NCR as the NCR region shares the same airshed as the National Capital Region. According to the Environment Minister, the Center has taken several steps to reduce the level of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, including opening of Peripheral Expressways around the national capital. Rules are also being brought in to reduce traffic congestion in non-Delhi and management of debris resulting from construction and demolition, which if not managed properly can also become a source of dust particles.

To deal with the ever-increasing problem of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the Center has introduced a new law through an ordinance which will come into force with immediate effect. Violation of the provisions has been punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine which may extend to one crore rupees, or with both. This ordinance may be named as the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020. This will also be applicable in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas where the matters are related to air pollution.

It is worth noting that these days the lockdown done during Kovid-19 is being reopened by the government. In such a situation, it is natural for the level of air pollution to increase again in Delhi and its surrounding areas. Also, with the arrival of cold weather, its severity increases further. The high level of toxicity of air pollution in and around Delhi is posing a serious threat. This severity has been made worse by the changing weather conditions. The changing weather has made the situation worse by trapping the pollutants in the air.

Now first of all let us highlight the reasons which are behind this increasing pollution-
  1. Significantly, the National Capital Territory shares its border with the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. One of the main reasons for the rising level of air pollution in Delhi is the burning of crops by farmers in these states. Crop residues and rice straw are burnt by these farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. According to an estimate, about 35 million tonnes of crops are burnt by these states every year. Wind carries all these pollutants and dust particles with it which are captured in the air.
  2. Pollution generated by the increasing number of traffic in Delhi is considered to be another cause of air pollution. Due to this air pollution and smog, the air quality index often reaches 'severe level'. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have declared vehicular emissions as a major factor responsible for Delhi's rising air pollution.
  3. As another reason we see that as soon as the winter season comes, the dust particles and other pollutants in the air settle and do not spread elsewhere. Due to stagnant winds these pollutants are locked in the air and affect the weather conditions; As a result of which smog is formed.
  4. Another reason for air pollution in the National Capital Region is the overpopulation. Due to the population exceeding the limit, there is an increase in various types of pollution, whether it is air pollution or noise pollution.
  5. Low investment in public infrastructure has also been cited as one of the other causes of air pollution. Investment in public transport and infrastructure in India is very low, leading to road traffic jams and increased air pollution.
  6. Large scale construction work in Delhi-NCR is also another culprit which increases the dust and pollution in the air. In view of the deteriorating air quality, work has been stopped at several construction sites as per the guidelines of the Delhi government.
  7. Industrial pollution and garbage dumps are also adding to air pollution and smog in Delhi and NCR regions.
  8. The sale of firecrackers on the occasion of Diwali every year in Delhi and its surrounding areas (despite the ban) may not be the top reason responsible for the smog but it certainly contributes to its formation.
If we talk about air pollution, then when the amount of one or more pollutants in the atmosphere increases so much Due to which the quality of air starts deteriorating and when it becomes harmful to the community, it is called air pollution.

On the basis of origin, air pollutants are divided into two major types-
  1. Natural Pollutants: These pollutants are released from natural sources or through natural activities. For example, pollen grains and volatile organic compounds of plants, gases released by volcanic eruptions and decaying organic matter. Generally, the concentration of natural extracts is low and they do not cause serious harm.
  2. Anthropogenic Pollutants: Secondary pollutants are formed as a result of chemical reactions between primary pollutants and normal atmospheric compounds under the influence of the electromagnetic radiations of the Sun.
For example: the primary pollutant sulfur dioxide (SO2) reacts with the oxygen of the atmosphere to form sulfur dioxide (SO3) which is a secondary pollutant.

Major air pollutant
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
  • Lead
  • Volatile Organic Matter (VOc)
  • surface ozone (O3)
  • hydrocarbons
  • Photochemical Oxidants- PANs C2H4O
  • Suspended particulate matter (Size: 0.01um – 200um)
Effective steps being taken by the government to deal with Delhi's air pollution-
  • Construction of Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways, which have reduced pollution by stopping 60,000 undisturbed heavy vehicles (trucks) passing through Delhi every day.
  • The Badarpur power plant was shut down which directly reduced pollution.
  • With the introduction of BS-VI compliant vehicles and fuels with an investment of Rs 65,000 crore, vehicular pollution has come down significantly.
  • 1400 crore for the farmers of Punjab and Haryana. The stubble cutting machines were made available as a result of which the pollution due to stubble burning reduced by 15 and 20 per cent in Punjab and Haryana respectively.
  • In the National Capital Region (NCR), zig-zag technique was adopted in 2,800 brick kilns which resulted in significant reduction in pollution.
  • Piped Natural Gas (PNG) has been provided to 2600 industries of NCR.
  • Construction and demolition waste management regulations were introduced for the first time in 2016, which significantly reduced dust and pollution.
  • Hundreds of dust suppressors and water sprinkling vehicles were provided by the Delhi Development Authority.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued some guidelines to prevent the dangerous effects of smog and pollution-

People are advised to stay indoors when the level of air-pollution increases in winter. And it is forbidden to go out. It is said to do outdoor activities in the morning or evening. It is asked to avoid smoking and avoid burning of waste. It is advisable to drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins from the body. It is recommended to consume fruits rich in vitamin C, magnesium and omega fatty acids to increase immunity. The use of main roads is forbidden so that people can stay away from pollution particles.

In view of all the above concerns, it is expected that the new commission can help in solving the problems of inter-departmental coordination by keeping a constant focus on air quality. But it is equally certain that without clear parameters of development and creative ways of resolving it can regenerate old stagnations. The new commission is like a bureaucratic vessel whose effect will depend on the content put into it as well as on how it is being run. If seen, this is a very welcome step, which was much needed. Because the main problem was how to coordinate between the different states adjacent to Delhi. At present there was no body, authority, ministry or state which was empowered or dedicated to do so. This ordinance is a classic example of America's learning from California's move.

Tackling air pollution requires political will, which is often lacking. At present it is not to be seen how the new commission is different from the existing bodies like EPCA, CBCB? What is needed is a body headed by the Union Environment Minister with representation from the Chief Ministers of all the states, which meets regularly and agrees on a time bound action plan. It is necessary to discharge the responsibilities while fixing the target, otherwise only charges and responsibilities will be transferred from one commission to another and the results will be same.

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