Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Satyendar Jain on Monday drew up an 11-point directive to his department stating that “reports indicate that PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels in the air are very high and need to be controlled on an emergent basis”.
Workers in orange high-visibility jackets hosing footpaths and kerb stones were spotted in different parts of the capital on Monday. However, these were not sanitation workers, but labourers engaged by the PWD to rid Delhi’s roads of dust, as air pollution set off alarm bells over the weekend.
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“This is an emergency measure. Traditionally, this has not been the job of the PWD, but this year the department has taken up many tasks for the first time like disposing debris and collecting garbage when MCD workers went on strike,” said Mahakar Singh, a PWD junior engineer, who was part of the cleaning on the Ghazipur Road in east Delhi.
At 5 pm, a water tanker with a capacity of 35,000 litres waited to clean the 3.5 km stretch along the Ghazipur drain.
The PWD deployed 1,250 workers and 40 water tankers for cleaning and scrubbing of roads across Delhi. “We started by about 11 am and we hope to finish by 7 pm. All the roads and dividers have been cleaned on both sides,” said assistant engineer Naresh Kumar.
“The cause of air pollution lies elsewhere. But when this cleaning of roads is carried out, it will make a difference at the ground level,” said a senior PWD official.
A blue tanker with a capacity of 5,000 litres started cleaning the road from Shamnath Marg to Raj Niwas in north Delhi on Monday afternoon. PWD’s Executive Engineer Anil Trehan supervised workers spraying the footpath with water, while assistant engineer Vinod Garg took pictures.
Sarvesh, a contractual labourer, held the hose connected to the tanker and asked for the pressure to be controlled so that everyone nearby was not drenched. As muddy water slid off the footpath, four other workers scrubbed it with mops and a sweeper collected the dry waste.
“We are using a 5,000-litre tanker. The water is from a sewage treatment plant. We have refilled it four times since this morning,” said Trehan.
Jain, meanwhile, said the kerb-side accumulation of dust should be cleaned manually until mechanical vacuum cleaning is fully operational. Tenders for vacuum cleaning will be received on November 11. He also asked the PWD engineers to scrupulously issue challans against improper stacking of construction material. He added that mist sprayers and air purifiers should be installed at six major intersections.
“Broken footpaths, kerbs, central verges and road surface also add to air pollution as loose particles increase abrasive action, thereby resulting in generation of dust. Therefore, adequate manpower and materials must be deployed to ensure that the road elements are duly repaired and maintained,” Jain directed.