On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia announced that his government will tackle “pollution on a war footing”. But “war footing” seems to be a misnomer for the measures announced by Sisodia. Other than promising a clampdown on errant construction agencies, his statement had nothing on curbing pollution. The minister, instead, talked of band-aids like installing air purifiers in different pockets of the city and pressing vacuum cleaners into service to clean Delhi’s roads once a week.
Tackling Delhi’s pollution is, admittedly, not an easy task. It requires the intervention of more than one state government. But so far, the Delhi government has not even tried to engage governments of the neighbouring states. Sisodia had very little to say about the pollution from crop residue burning that engulfs the city as soon as winter sets in.
By all accounts, such pollution is going to peak over the next week or so when a large number of farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan will set fire to the stubble left over after harvesting the summer crop. Tackling crop residue burning is not an easy proposition. Farmers could change their ways if they can find economic gains in disposing of the crop residue. The governments of Delhi and its neighbouring states could cooperate in creating markets for the refuse. They and the Centre could encourage biomass plants, which could use it to generate energy.
Instead of giving serious thought to such concerted engagement, the Delhi government seems to have accepted pollution as a fait accompli. If the measures announced by Sisodia are anything to go by, his government is aiming only at cleaning up the pollution. It is on weak territory even there. Take the installation of air purifiers, for instance. What good would air purifiers in a few pockets do in a city that stretches over 1,400 sq km? Air purifiers are known to clean air in confined environments such as homes and offices.
The chemistry of outdoor air varies across micro-climates and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for the different micro-regions in the city. Air purifiers were installed by the New Delhi Municipal Council in 2010. The device, by the council’s own admission, was not effective. The Delhi government cites Beijing’s “successful” experiment with air purifiers. But Beijing has also curbed industrial pollution, regulated cars, scaled public transport and banned fireworks. Pollution has to be fought on several fronts. It’s time the Delhi government recognises that.