The Supreme Court has given Delhi government three days to come up with a plan to control air pollution in the capital considered the most polluted city in the world.
Air quality does not have any quick solutions but here is a reminder of three immediate steps the government can take to reduce pollutants. All three had been initiated but have since lost steam.
First, continue and increase the rigorous checking on trucks, other outbound diesel vehicles passing through Delhi. Under the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the government had started supervision which has fizzled out. Random checks should be carried out on the age of trucks and engines to monitor emission standards. Immediately after the NGT orders, the Delhi government had started rigorous checks on whether they had air pollution clearances and the age of vehicles. Six NGT appointed commissioners were monitoring the checks at the borders. This stopped after barely a month.
Subsequent to the NGT order, only one serious effort has been made to check random vehicles for age at the Burari depot when transport minister Gopal Rai was present. We should be seeing more such checks.
Second, control dust from construction sites. Again the NGT had ordered the authorities to check Noida Extension and Gurgaon after the `Death by Breath’ series by The Indian Express (April) had pointed out violations of construction safety guidelines to minimise air pollution. These checks need to increase in Delhi and NCR — not just in real estate but also at public construction sites.
Thirdly, continue the discussions that the union environment minister had started with NCR authorities on treating pollution as a cumulative NCR problem with regard to guidelines for quality of diesel, engines, air quality monitoring and construction dust, etc. Treating air pollution in Delhi as an isolated problem will not help, as experts have pointed out time and again. There have been two such meetings where environment ministers from different states participated, but the practice has not gone forward.
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