Delhi Is Taking Some Urgent Measures To Reduce Pollution To Make The City Liveable Again
New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital for the third straight year in 2020, and India was home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities, according to IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report, which gathered data for 106 countries.
In 2020, city's average annual concentration of PM2.5 in a cubic meter of air was 84.1, the study said, more than double the level of Beijing, which averaged 37.5 during the year, making it the 14th most polluted city in the world.
Air pollution caused an estimated 54,000 premature deaths in New Delhi in 2020, according to a recent study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Analysis and IQAir.
While the national capital is endowed with abundance and a variety of environmental assets such as the river Yamuna, the Aravalli ridge, water bodies, forests, etc, it also continuously grapples with severe pollution.
Water pollution in the Yamuna and other water bodies has resulted in the disappearance of aquatic life and disturbed the water ecology. The 22 km stretch of Yamuna from Wazirabad to Okhla in Delhi, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length, accounts for about 70 per cent of the pollution load in the river.
A major cause of concern for Delhi is the poor air quality index throughout the year. A large fraction of air pollution in Delhi comes from outside its geographic boundaries.
Noise quality levels are beyond the prescribed limit at all locations monitored by DPCC, both during the day and night. Delhi was ranked the third-noisiest city in the world in 2017 by Worldwide Hearing Index.
Protecting trees and increasing green cover
A multi-state effort approach is needed to conserve Delhi's lungs and increase green cover to make it liveable.
Delhi’s green cover, comprising forest cover and tree cover is on the rise. It aims to plant medicinal plants to assist in curbing air pollution and increasing the green cover. Along with it, the national capital plans to:
- Encourage green mobility and active travel modes by improving pedestrian, cycling, and EV infrastructure.
- Delhi will put a plan in place to check the growth of alien species that cause land degradation or disturb water ecology. These will be replaced with indigenous flora and fauna.
- Afforestation and tree transplantation to be taken up in identified areas as per feasibility
- Enhancing biodiversity for conserving and preserving the ecosystems of the Yamuna and the Aravalli Ridge
- For protecting trees, a Tree Directory shall be prepared by concerned agencies for their respective areas, identifying unique tree corridors or precincts, heritage trees, precincts with high carbon storage and sequestration rates, etc.
- Such trees/ tree clusters shall be protected and controlled in terms of planting indigenous trees and integrated with cultural trails/ nature trails, etc.
Activities such as urban farming, community gardens, etc., may be encouraged in vacant private/public lands irrespective of land use of the plot.
Delhi will also take up mandatory wild grassing of all government-owned vacant lands shall also be enforced.
Rejuvenation of Yamuna
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has prepared a Comprehensive River Development Plan that shall guide the protection of the Yamuna floodplain. It includes:
- A 300 m wide green buffer where ever feasible to be maintained along the entire edge of the river.
- No permanent construction is permitted in the floodplain.
- The capital has also imposed regulations on the disposal of pooja material, immersion of idols, use of fertilizers, garbage disposal, etc.
- It is also planning to install CCTV cameras to check illegal construction, dumping of sewage or malba in the floodplain and river.
De-silting of existing wetlands and restoring them for the catchment of floodwater and creating new wetlands is also in the works.
Shedding the 'most polluted capital' tag
After an unexpected respite from air pollution during the months of pandemic-induced lockdown, air pollution has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels in Delhi, the world's most air-polluted capital city.
The primary sources of Delhi's particulate emissions are large power plants and refineries, vehicular pollution, and stubble burning.
While there are efforts designed to address these three sources, a serious implementation is the need of the hour. To reduce air pollution, which is reducing the life span of residents, these measures are being implemented:
- Delhi has called for the closure of 11 coal-fired power plants operating within 300 kilometers. However, these plants have missed two deadlines to install flue-gas desulfurization units to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions.
- Mobile enforcement teams have been deployed for pollution checking of vehicles, along with phasing out of older vehicles, and massive investments in mass rapid transport systems such as the expansion of metro projects, addition in bus fleet, and promotion of e-vehicles.
- The Delhi government has installed a smog tower to curb pollution in the winter season.
- It has also installed 23 anti-smog guns at key intersections and construction sites across the city and assured that this number will be increased.
Creation of new assets
‘Green Development’ on the city periphery
Green Development Area policy has been proposed for green belt villages and it permits restricted development and prescribes a substantial proportion of land to be maintained as wooded area and green cover.
Managing green and blue environmental assets
New Delhi has made rapid strides in improving the green cover, nearly doubling it in the last two decades from approximately 150 sqkm in 2001 to 300 sqkm in 2017.
Presently, it is among the greenest cities in the country with a mix of natural and planned greens. Almost 20 per cent of the land area is under green cover, as per the Department of Forests, GNCTD.
Delhi, also has the Yamuna, along with more than 4000 natural and constructed drains, out of which, 200 natural drains are spread across three drainage basins of Najafgarh, Trans Yamuna, and Barapullah.
The city also has more than 900 water bodies in the form of lakes, ponds, and tanks as per Delhi Parks and Gardens Society. However, the area under blue assets has reduced over the past decade due to encroachment, pollution, and natural drying up of water bodies.
Delhi is projected to be the most populous city by 2030. The national capital is already home to 29 million people, according to United Nations estimates. Over the course of the next decade, it will add an estimated 870,000 people per year as a growing share of the population is settling in cities.
By 2028, Delhi’s population will overtake that of Tokyo, currently the world’s biggest urban agglomeration with 37 million people.
With tens of millions of people residing in the city, it is imperative that measures to make it liveable and sustainable be implemented with urgency.
For more on news and current affairs from around the world, visit Indiatimes News.