Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced emergency measures for reducing the alarming air pollution levels in the Capital. However, the steps announced seem too little too late. One can recall the orders given last winters by the Supreme Court to reduce air pollution in the city and the chief minister has mostly repeated the same steps without invoking the odd-even plan. The same measures were not implemented properly last year and it seems unlikely that the situation will improve this time.
Kejriwal has chosen to order selective implementation of these orders and not throughout the city like on non-PWD roads–some of which are controlled by the NHAI and others by MCDs, both under the BJP at the Centre and municipal level.
The CM has ordered schools to remain shut for three days and halted construction of roads for five days. Sprinkling of roads is also another step that is announced and vacuum cleaning is supposed to start from November 10 — the Supreme Court had ordered the same before imposing a Diesel ban as well.
However, no visible action was seen on the ground. The vacuum cleaners were supposed to have been acquired last year, but they were nowhere to be seen. As for immediate redressal, vacuum cleaning should have been started much before, at least before things took a turn for the worse. The Supreme Court had instructed the government to ensure that dust from construction sites is curbed from spreading into surrounding areas. The administration has failed here too.
Medical experts have revealed that the air pollution related medical cases have more than doubled in the Capital over the last few weeks peaking after Diwali. The PM10 and PM2.5 levels have remained around 3-4 times over Indian prescribed danger limits. The levels reached 14-15 times higher the morning following Diwali on October 30 and the situation has since worsened. The government’s air quality monitoring bodies have indexed Delhi’s air as hazardous over the past 10 odd days.
Delhi government has argued that the pollution causes were present before Diwali as well but the “gas chamber”-like situation is a result of pollutants coming in from Delhi’s surrounding states like Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan due to seasonal crop stubble burning. The relentless burning of crackers on Diwali amplified the pollution levels in Delhi and cold weather conditions have impeded the dissipation of the smog.
Construction activities have also been halted for five days along with banning the use of diesel generator sets. The Badarpur Power Plant has also been shut down for a few days. Burning of dry leaves will be monitored by an app, said the CM, though it is unclear how the app will stop open burning of waste and leaves.
Delhi government needs to come up with solid measures and a daily action plan to address the issue and also form emergency protocols like shutting down certain operations in the city and taking off certain vehicles from roads when air pollution hits the danger marks. The movement till now has been lethargic and after a troublesome last few winters, the government should have ideally been ready with a plan by now.