Air Pollution

[op- ed snap] What Delhi hasn’t learnedop-ed snap

A soldier stands guard in the North block at Vijay Chowk in the midst of a very smoggy day in New Delhi on wednesday. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal New Delhi 081117


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Mexico’s pollution mitigation strategy



  1. In the article, the writer talks about the pollution mitigation strategy of the Mexican city

Pollution in the Mexico City

  1. Mexico City was considered to be the most polluted city in the world by the United Nations in 1992
  2. But now it has made considerable progress in air quality during the last 25 years
  3. Difficult geographical features:  Mexico’s capital is located in a valley, which makes it difficult for poisonous air to escape
  4. This means it still has periods in which it struggles with its air quality

Efforts done by Mexco to counter pollution

  1. In the early 1990s when Mexico City’s inhabitants first became aware of the extent of the devastation that could be caused by pollution
  2. Ever since, the local government has mandated a series of measures on a war footing
  3. These include
    (1)  the compulsory use of catalytic converters in every car,
    (2) mandatory verification of car emissions every six months,
    (3) a serious improvement of public transportation, including the expansion of metro lines, a bus rapid transit system by the name of Metrobus, a bike sharing programme, among others
  4. Hoy No Circula: A road space rationing strategy called “Hoy No Circula” (roughly, A day without a car), which was started by civil society
  5. And then adopted by the government, restricts the circulation of cars one day per week depending on the last number of their license plates

Programme for Atmospheric Environmental Contingency

  1. It was a two phase programme, created in case of serious spikes in the levels of pollutants
  2. Phase 1 is declared when the levels of ozone reach an equivalent of 0.166 ppm (1 hour average) or when levels of PM10 reach 221 µg/m3 (24 hour average)
  3. With Phase 1, the authorities set in motion actions to protect the health of citizens in four different categories: Recommendations, transportation, services, and industries
  4. Schools and government institutions are expected to cease all outdoors activities, civic and recreational
  5. Citizens are advised that exercising outdoors represents a health hazard
  6. Healthcare professionals are on alert to receive vulnerable patients and are responsible for spreading information

What we can learn from the Programme for Atmospheric Environmental Contingency?

  1. It can be a powerful tool for shielding vulnerable groups from intense exposure to pollutants, as well as generating awareness among the population about the health risks that extreme air pollution poses
  2. A contingency programme means the issue has a direct impact on the lives of the people
  3. And in the case of Mexico City, this disruption has created awareness and dialogue about the importance of air quality

Other steps taken by the Mexican Government

  1. One of the most important steps was the relocation of heavy industry to outside the Mexican city limits, and the enforcement of stringent standards regarding emissions
  2. Considering the impact transportation has on air pollution, the Mexico City government recently signed an agreement with 12 other cities in the C40 group
  3. to procure only zero-emission buses by 2025 and ensure that the city is fossil fuel free by 2030

Will Delhi ever learn even a few lessons from Mexico City?

  1. Delhi has refused to put in place even the most elemental emergency pollution measures that acknowledge the seriousness of health hazards its outrageously polluted air brings
  2. That is why this question arises

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