This year as Delhi’s pollution crisis reached a new high, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a list of emergency measures to tackle the crisis. Enforcing emergency measures is merely a band-aid solution to what actually requires a surgery and that too, a major one. It may have momentarily addressed the issue but there needs to be a more permanent and concrete solution. After all for how many days can you shut down constructions, demolitions, power plants and diesel generators? For how many days can you shut schools or lock yourself indoors?
In spite of a week of implementation of emergency measures, pollution levels are nearly 17 times higher than WHO guidelines, as recorded by IndiaSpend’s #Breathe sensors. One may argue that pollution levels have come down by nearly 50% since the measures were enforced. However that itself actually highlights the complexity of the problem; why has it come down by just 50%? Delhi’s geography, climatic conditions and growing urban population aren’t the only reasons of pollution. Brick kilns and industries located on the outskirts of the city and burning of crop residues in the neighbouring states also significantly contribute to the resultant smog.
Source: #Breathe; Picture taken on Monday, November 13, 2016 at 8.30 am
Problems Delhi can’t solve
A study led by researchers at The University of Surrey explains that unlike Mumbai which is located along the coast, Delhi is locked by land on all sides. There is very little scope for the polluted air to be replaced by lesser polluted air. A drop in temperature, reducing wind speeds, change in direction of wind all further aggravate the pollution problem. And that is exactly what happened this year around Diwali. Wall Street Journal reported wind speed of 1.8 metres per second compared to 3.4 metres per second around the same time last year. Further reversal in wind direction, prevented the dispersal and allowed pollutants to accumulate in the atmosphere. There is nothing one can do about the topography or the weather, but there are things which can be sorted out. It would need time, patience and of course money.
What would it cost to curb the pollution menace?
An IIT-Kanpur study suggests measures which if implemented will definitely improve the air quality to a great extent. But just how many are willing to pay the price? Are you ready to use public transport or replace your cars with electric/hybrid ones. Are you ready to plant trees? Are you ready to give up on crackers and make Diwali truly a festival of lights?
Are the hotels/restaurants ready to replace coal tandoors with electric ones? Are farmers in the neighbouring states ready to pay labourers to convert the crop residues into cattle feed/biogas/biochar? Are industries ready to reduce the sulphur content in industrial fuel?
Is the government ready to put in place an infrastructure to prevent burning of municipal solid waste? Is the government taking an initiative to build a wider and denser network of public transport? Is the government ready to spend on construction of better roads and vacuuming and spraying water on major roads? Will the government give farmers in the neighbouring states incentives or subsidies to prevent burning of crop residues?
There are many more questions that need an answer. However, ironically all these questions are hanging around just like the pollution in Delhi’s atmosphere. Cause right now everyone’s busy fighting another fight, a #FightAgainstCorruption and #BlackMoney.