The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday announced emergency measures to tackle pollution which will come into place when air quality touches the ‘severe’ limit.
These measures include sprinkling water using helicopters, stopping construction activity, stopping stone crushing and thermal power plants and diesel generator sets that cause more pollution than is permitted.
These measures are somewhat different from those put in place on bad air days in major cities elsewhere in the world. In several countries, steps such as odd-ever road rationing and parking restrictions are the first to be put in place when the air becomes toxic. Three illustrative examples from large capital cities in three different continents:
When a ‘Red’ alert was issued in Beijing last year because of polluted air, an alarm was sounded and messages were played in buses and trains asking people to be cautious. Once among the most polluted cities in the world, Beijing has had stringent emergency measures to combat chronic air pollution in place since 2011. These were formalized in 2013.
The Chinese capital enforces an odd-even road-rationing scheme for private cars whenever a ‘Red’ alert is sounded, immediately pulling some 1.8 million cars off the roads for every day that the scheme is in force. All schools are closed so that children are not exposed to toxic air, factories are shut down, and fireworks — which are a major draw during the Chinese New Year celebrations — are banned.
Even outdoor barbecues, which are very popular in local markets, are stopped. All government departments have to ensure that only 70% of their vehicles are on the roads.
An alert is sounded on the day before a heavy smog day based on forecasts.
When smog enveloped the iconic Eiffel Tower in March 2015, the French capital took half its cars off the roads, much like Delhi’s odd-even scheme. Heavy fines were imposed for flouting the ban, and the speed limit was set at a low 20 km per hour.
Public transport and parking in residential areas were made free to encourage people to use public transport. According to the government, the steps were successful and helped cut pollution significantly.
2015 was only the third time since 1997 that the city had to implement emergency measures.
Mexico City too made public transport free when air quality dipped last year.
When it declares an air emergency, Mexico City bans a fifth of private cars from roads on every day of the week. It also offers free rides on buses and trains.
The city started its battle with air pollution in the late 1980s and was the first to implement the odd-even scheme. Over the years, many gains have been made in Mexico City’s air quality but experts say that the concentration of pollutants has been on the rise again over the past four years.