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Apathy by all govts in NCR turning air poisonous

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By Sidharth Mishra

According to a report released by the Centre, five years after the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was launched in 2019, Delhi has failed to meet its 2024 target of bringing down the annual PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 20-30%. While we have been witness to continues blame games between the political parties, the government report shows that every state government, whatever the political hue, in the national capital region (NCR) has failed to get into mission mode to contain pollution.

The report says that of the Rs 428.61 crore allotted to six cities of NCR with million plus population, only Rs 170.58 crore has been utilised in the last five years. Delhi, ruled by Aam Aadmi Party, was allocated Rs 38.22 crore of which only Rs 10.77 crore used. Noida, under BJP government, of Rs 26.42 crore allocated only Rs 0.95 crore utilised, Alwar, ruled by Congress government, of Rs 15 crore Rs 0.04 crore used, Meerut, ruled by BJP government, Rs 81.93 crore of allocated Rs 139.19 crore used, Ghaziabad, ruled by BJP, Rs 76.89 crore of Rs 136.25 crore used and finally Faridabad, again ruled by BJP, not a single paisa of allocated Rs 73.53 utilised.

Newspaper reports say that analysis by an independent climate advocacy group found that the national Capital managed to bring down the concentration of PM2.5, the ultrafine particles that can reach deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, by a mere 6%. For PM10, slightly coarser pollutants made mostly of fine dust fell only by 4%. Delhi was part of 131 cities across the country that did not attain targets for improving air quality. 

These figures show how mismanaged and lacking in focus has been the knee-jerk measures initiated by Commission for Air Quality Management like ordering B III (petrol) and B IV (diesel) vehicles off the roads. Such actions can only contribute in a small in fighting the humongous battle against air pollution in the national Capital.

Banning vehicles is just one of the majors formulated under NCAP to control vehicular pollution. Among the others are RFID (radio-frequency identity) system to be implemented for collection of toll and Environment Compensation Charges from commercial vehicles entering Delhi. So far only areas falling under erstwhile South Delhi Municipal Corporation are reported to have done it.

Next, Department of Heavy Industry to provide subsidy on e-vehicles under Faster Adoption and Manufacture of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles in India (FAME -II India) scheme. We have found newspaper reports wherein vehicle charging station in the heart of the national Capital were found to be non-functional.

There are two other initiatives to be taken by the government. The first is for providing Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) to set up Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) production plants and make CBG available in the market for use in automotive fuels. The long queues outside the CNG stations causing traffic jams tell the story of short supply of the gases.

The last initiative under this category being operationalization of Expressways & Highways to divert non-destined traffic. The commissioning of highways and expressways in and around Delhi are all running behind schedule is public knowledge.

The biggest villain, however, is stubble burning in the paddy fields of Punjab and Haryana. From beginning of November last year, 33 scientists were deployed as flying squads by the CAQM for intensifying monitoring and enforcing action to prevent paddy stubble burning. 

The flying squads were to coordinate with the state Government/ nodal officers/ officers from respective Pollution Control Boards towards prevention and control of stubble burning in their respective districts and sending their daily reports to CAQM. The paddy season has ended, teams have been recalled but there has been no end to the pollution caused by stubble fire.

The sum and substance is that its government lethargy which is killing air quality and not citizenry’s ennui.

(First Published in The Morning Standard)

 

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