Lauding the Delhi government’s announcement of taking emergency steps to tackle the severe air pollution, a green body on Sunday said these will need strict enforcement and vehicle restraint measures, including odd-even scheme, for effective impact. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said for enduring impact, the government must also step up inter-state coordination to control fires in neighbouring states and take action to strengthen short and medium term measures for all pollution sources.
The severe pollution peaks that have persisted for about a week, pose serious health risk for children, the ailing and the people in general, it said. “This emergency situation demands emergency action. These measures will now require stringent enforcement. However, vehicle restraint measures including odd and even, and parking restraints must be included immediately for effective impact,” CSE’s executive director Anumita Roychowdhury said.
CSE said odd-even scheme and parking restraints must be implemented simultaneously and diesel vehicles should be controlled. In Delhi, there has been no respite from the choking haze since Diwali. Analysis of air pollution data from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee shows that on Diwali day (October 30) the air was already saturated. The 24-hour average level of PM 2.5 was 347 microgramme per cubic metre and was at ‘severe’ level which is the worst category according to the air quality index.
This increased significantly post-Diwali when on November 2, the 24-hour average levels shot up to 577 microgramme per cubic metre. Yesterday, almost a week later, it was far worse at 639 microgramme per cubic metre. The peak levels were even more horrendous and not breathable.
Yesterday, the four hour averages (12 noon to 4 PM) of peak levels were as high as 732 microgramme per cubic metre in Punjabi Bagh, 762 microgramme per cubic metre in Mandir Marg and 566 microgramme per cubic metre in R K Puram, CSE said. “Delhi has become a gas chamber. It may be recalled that the infamous London smog that had killed 4,000 people within a week during the December of 1952, had an average particulate level of about 500 microgrameme per cubic metre mixed with high level of sulphur dioxide,” said Roychowdhury.
CSE said emergency action needs strong enforcement and zero tolerance to ensure that the newly announced emergency measures are effective enough to lower the severe peak levels. “For more lasting and enduring impacts on air quality, step up short and medium term measures to reduce pollution from vehicles, power plant, industry, waste burning, construction and farm fires in a time-bound manner.
“Step up inter-state coordination to address the smoke plumes from the farm fires in Punjab and Haryana,” CSE said.