Numerous advisories are out suggesting people to avoid outdoors as the air quality in the National Capital is turning ‘severe’ under the collective impact of dense fog and reduced wind speed, a condition that has been persistent for the past few days.
In a recent development, the Railways decided on Monday to cancel 54 trains till January 15, anticipating fog in many parts of North India. The frequency of 22 other trains has been reduced by a day, keeping in mind the safety of rail passengers. The cancelled trains include Sealdha Express, North East Express, Begumpura Express, Lucknow Double-Decker Express, Chandigarh-Amritsar Express, Rohtak Intercity, Jaipur-Chandigarh Express, Haridwar - Amritsar Jan Shatabdi Express and Mau Express.
However, it is not fog alone that has caused trouble this winter. Due to dense fog formation, visibility has drop and also shot up the level of pollutants as moisture traps it. Levels of PM 10, in real-time, at Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) Anand Vihar and R K Puram stations violated the prescribed standards (24-hour ambient) by over 10 and seven times respectively.
In response to a similar problem, French authorities have made public transportation free for the second day running as the city combats the worst winter pollution in a decade. Similar to Delhi’s air problems, AirParif, the French capital’s air monitoring service, said pollution had increased amid cold weather and windless conditions which have trapped toxic pollutants. In response, trains, buses and the metro were made free to use on Wednesday to encourage Parisians to leave their cars at home. Of course, the public transport infrastructure in Paris has struggled to keep up with the footfall. Delhi also continues to suffer from inadequate public transport.
To improve the public transport connectivity, there are some steps the government can take to improve its buses. Besides broken seats and windows, minimal access for the disabled and no space to stow luggage, overcrowding in the Delhi Transport Corporation buses are major concerns. Those who do take the bus do it out of sheer necessity. These basic features need to be repaired in existing buses. Moreover, with the advent of GPS and the smartphone, the authorities could establish an app or a system, whereby commuters receive second-by-second updates about the time of arrival, disruptions, accidents and delays.
Finally, to improve last-mile connectivity, which remains a major concern for those who have followed the odd-even experiment, the Delhi government must deregulate auto-rickshaw licenses and put an end to the artificial scarcity of environment-friendly CNG autos in Delhi, among other measures. There is only so much the Delhi Metro can handle.