Issuing advisories on pollution and taking measures like shutting down schools on poor air days would need further consideration, said the two ministers spearheading Delhi’s air pollution control measures — Health and Public Works Department Minister Satyendar Jain and Transport Minister Gopal Rai — at the Indian Express Idea Exchange Friday.
When asked about the need for health advisories, Jain, who is also heading the Delhi government committee to tackle air pollution, said, “In my home, children are eager for such advisories. They say that if you issue advisories, schools will close. We will have to check this properly. With the kind of environment we see in Delhi and the prevalent pollution levels, we will have to keep schools shut 200 days out of the 365 days in a year. So, we have to think for some more time before issuing advisories… What if we issue advisories and schools refuse to shut?” he questioned.
Jain added that the government was planning to introduce a colour-coded public information system on the streets to help people interpret air quality data.
“We are setting up panels to measure air quality live and also inform people what the levels should ideally be. Today, nobody knows exactly how polluted Delhi is; they just say there is a lot of pollution, but nobody knows how bad it is.
Interpreting figures and numbers is very difficult. We will show this data live in different areas, and introduce some kind of a colour code — green, orange, red,” said Jain.
On whether the government will actually issue health advisories, he said, “Officials of the health department have been urging me to introduce some kind of an advisory, so we are on it; we will do something about it”. Transport Minister Gopal
Rai added that it would be pointless to issue such advisories “suddenly”.
“The advisories you are talking about, how can we introduce them suddenly? Who will listen to these advisories? Who will read them? It is true that now with this odd-even policy, people are talking about this issue, they are looking out for news. Advisories have been issued in the past, committees like the Pollution Control Committee and others have been studying pollution,” said Rai.
The minister added that systems to display real-time air quality data would be set up at 400 points. “We will develop this system…. to include advisories,” said Rai. Cases of respiratory diseases are also on the rise, according to data from Delhi government hospitals, said Jain.
Sources said the government might introduce mobile vans to conduct lung function tests in various communities. Last month, pulmonary function tests conducted on 100 bureaucrats in Gurgaon had revealed that 68 of them were suffering from shortness of breath in varying degrees.
Earlier this year, lung function tests were conducted among traffic policemen at a Delhi hospital and at least 25 per cent were found to