Delhi air will never be safe because of its geographical disadvantage: Panel to High Court

Incidentally, the DPCC report claimed that “trends” showed that levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in the city were “decreasing”.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Updated: February 5, 2016 8:20 am

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A senior scientist with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) told the Delhi High Court Thursday that pollution levels in the city will never come down to “safe limits” because of its “geographical disadvantage”.

Dr M P George of the DPCC told the bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva that due to the movement of air and dust storms in the Indo-Gangetic plain, Delhi was at a “geographical disadvantage”. The submission was made in response to a query from the bench on whether particulate matter levels in the city could “ever” be brought down to “safe” limits.

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“Are we fooling ourselves then,” asked the bench, which then asked the scientist to give his opinion on the “realistic” air quality standards for the city.

George told the court that “as a scientist” it was “his opinion” that particulate matter levels of “100-150” (micrograms per cubic meter) which fall under “moderate pollution” limits were an “achievable” target for Delhi.

The submissions were made during a hearing on a suo motu PIL take up by the High Court on the issue of air pollution in the Capital. The bench had asked George to explain details of the report submitted by the DPCC of its analysis of air quality trends in the city for the last five years.

Incidentally, the DPCC report claimed that “trends” showed that levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in the city were “decreasing”.

Contrary to claims made by the DPCC and Delhi government during the debate on the odd-even car number policy, the DPCC report claimed that since 2012, the annual mean for PM10 and PM 2.5 was lowest in 2015.

George informed the court that public perception was “contrary to scientific information”.

“The media looks at the highest peak level of the day and splashes it. People see fog in the thick of winters and call it smog. That is not correct,” he said.

According to the report, the average concentration of PM10 in the city has ranged between 245 to 509 microgram per cubic meter for the past five years. The maximum value observed by the air quality monitoring station at Anand Vihar was 1176 microgram per cubic meter in November 2013.

For pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, minimum values were observed in 2014 while maximum concentration of nitrogen dioxide was observed in November 2014.

Taking up the issue of traffic snarls in the city, the bench asked the Centre to file a reply explaining the delay in implementation of a proposed “intelligent traffic management system”. In February 2015, the traffic police had sent a proposal including redesign of roads, introduction of “smart” technology and coordinated traffic signals to the Home Ministry. The bench asked the Centre to file a reply by next Wednesday on why no action had been taken so far on the proposal.

Meanwhile, Delhi government standing counsel Rahul Mehra informed the court that the AAP government was considering a proposal for a “pilot project” to “completely redesign” ten roads which see serious traffic congestion.

He said the decision had been taken since most “congestion points” were due to “bad road design” where 6-8 lane roads suddenly narrowed into 4-lane roads. “If the pilot is successful, then all roads may be redesigned in the next five years,” he said.