Breathe and Let Breathe

24 Jan 2018

An action plan against air pollution for Delhi cannot be fully implemented if the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have no plans of their own.

air pollution

A week after, the air quality in Delhi-NCR is back to "severe-plus" category - the second time since the emergency broke out. Year after year, this issue (now a phenomenon) has erupted, been debated and dealt with only to stand tall each year with a bigger challenge and little progress.

What is unique, and multiplies the complexity of the problem at hand, is its multi-faceted nature - a nexus of a lot many smaller issues that has made it hard to implement solutions, both regularly and at scale. The causes range from industrial and vehicular emissions to construction activities and road dust. A large part of the problem, however is the season’s stubble burning. As per a recent TERI study, regions beyond NCR contribute up to 40% of the particulate matter in Delhi’s air, where crop residue burning scores as a major contributor.

It has been emphasised enough that we need farmers to shift to alternative ways of disposing of agricultural waste - something that will make a big difference. At the same time, we must realise that a well-rounded action plan for Delhi can never be fully implemented if the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have no plans of their own to improve air quality. For that, coordination between the state governments is prime.

Besides, other agencies like the NGT and the Delhi HC have stepped in with recommendations, ranging from putting the brakes on the movement of trucks to a ban on construction activities to bringing artificial rain in the capital. Last year, TERI also brought out a 10-point Emergency Response Solution for immediate relief, along with a medium-to-long term agenda for air quality enhancement. Reducing refuse and crop residue burning, controlling construction activities, transport and power plant emissions are some of the suggestions they made. These should be acted upon simultaneously.

As each passing year echoes the cry of millions of people for clean air, what cities like Delhi need is a long-term institutional strategy rather than hasty administrative responses.

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