Air Pollution

[oped of the day] To mitigate air pollution, look beyond tokenism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Odd-Even scheme; Delhi’s air pollution - reasons

Context

The odd-even scheme for automobiles plying in Delhi will kick in. Due to a steep deterioration in the air quality index or AQI in the city, the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) had to declare a public health emergency as a desperate measure to contain the silent killer.

Odd-Even scheme

  • Innovative idea – The odd-even scheme was first introduced three years ago. It is an out-of-the-box idea with unproven claims on containing AQI levels. 
  • Limited to 4 wheelers – It is terrific to focus attention on air pollution caused by automobiles. It exempts two-wheelers and does not allow privately-owned hybrids and CNG vehicles. 
  • Need for rains – Unless the rains turn up, and the cross winds regain momentum, Odd-Even is unlikely to bring down AQI below the prevailing hazardous levels.

It’s high time

  • Annual event – For three years now, NCR has seen the pollution saga every winter.
  • Beyond one cause – There is a need to take the debate beyond the single causes like stubble burning.

Understanding the problem

  • Topography – NCR pollution problem is partly because of the nature of its topography. 
    • It is shaped like a saucer and hence is hugely dependent on a cross breeze.
    • This breeze serves it for most of the year, except in winter—to keep its AQI under control.
    • This is the reason why the stubble burning that happens in the early part of the year does not harm Delhi as much.
  • Growing vehicles
    • Vehicular pollution has been growing very sharply. 
    • The emissions of PM by automobiles have surged by 40% in the eight years that ended 2018.
    • According to the Economic Survey put out by the Delhi government, there were 10.9 million vehicles in NCR at the end of 2018.
    • In the absence of winds, stubble burning and bursting of crackers send the pollution problem over the tipping point.

Need for a comprehensive solution

  • Public transport – Metro Rail has been critical in addressing transport woes of NCR’s working population. This has to be dovetailed with a robust public bus network.
  • Road design – government should focus on building and maintaining good roads and implementing laws to ensure only road-worthy vehicles ply.
  • Need for a public movement – the residents of Delhi have to force a public debate.
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