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Can Delhi come clean before Games 2010?

When China’s Beijing City was preparing to host the 2008 Olympics,the city authorities divided the cars into two neat groups: odd-numbered nameplates and even-numbered nameplates.

Written by Neha Sinha | New Delhi |
June 1, 2009 3:21:15 am

When China’s Beijing City was preparing to host the 2008 Olympics,the city authorities divided the cars into two neat groups: odd-numbered nameplates and even-numbered nameplates. The ‘odd’ and ‘even’ cars were allowed to ply on the city’s thoroughfares on alternate days. It was neither a funny coincidence,nor a media-friendly exercise.

The drill was part of an elaborate action plan to bring down city’s much-criticised air pollution level.

As Delhi gets ready for the 2010 Commonwealth Games,the deadline to clean up its air is also inching closer.

Ninety-nine polluting units,including acid and cement units,have to be moved out by February 2010.

There is still no concrete plan to bring down the emission levels of cars — the main cause of pollution.

Further,as reported earlier by this paper,hectic construction activity is making the Capital’s air dirtier,especially in winter.

That air pollution affects athletes the most is well documented; though mostly only in the international scenario.

A 2002 study published in the medical journal Lancet said that asthma increases in children who play more than three sports in places with high ozone levels. This is because athletes tend to breathe in larger quantities of air. In Delhi (and the rest of the country),air pollution is monitored only on two spatial categories: residential areas and industrial areas. There is no monitoring of areas which are Commonwealth Games centric: like sports stadiums or the construction sites.

The Capital,meanwhile,is rolling up its sleeves to tackle dirty air at the policy level. “In a public notice,we have given 99 polluting units time till February 6,2010 to move out of the city. If they don’t comply,they will be facing strict action,” said Dr A K Ambasht,Member Secretary,Delhi Pollution Control Committee. At least four more city forests are also expected to come up by the time of the Games. But more needs to be done,say experts.

Beijing had it much tougher. China,one of the biggest carbon emitters in the world,had reportedly lost its bid for the 2000 Olympics because of air pollution. Before the 2008 Olympics,Beijing City cracked down on polluting units with a comprehensive action plan. Around 1,400 coal boilers were asked to switch to natural gas and fuel was made Euro IV compliant. Power plants were made to conduct de-sulphurisation exercises (sulphur dioxide is a dangerous pollutant). But the harshest crackdown was on private cars,with batches of cars being kept off roads.

In Delhi’s action plan,more buses for public transport by 2010 figure prominently. Though there is no cap on private cars in sight,citizens can look forward to cheery,clean buses painted bright green.

Beijing vs delhi

While Beijing limited the number of private cars on roads,it is unlikely that the Delhi government will follow suit. Routes for the Commonwealth Games have been widened and in certain residential trees might be chopped down widen roads

Beijing focussed on public transport. Delhi too will have new fleets of DTC-run CNG buses

Delhi needs better haze control for construction sites and recognition of new pollutants like Ozone. Delhi is now cracking down on

polluting manufacturing units

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