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Curbing emissions

The dangers associated with rising air pollution has taken centre stage in the national capital. With rising health and economic costs, Delhi has occupied a prominent place. In response, the National Green Tribunal on Friday had ordered that no new diesel vehicles would be registered in the national capital. Additionally, the NGT has also directed the Central and state government departments to not purchase any diesel vehicles. Studies have shown that diesel-operated vehicles contribute a significant share to air pollution here. Most of these vehicles do not adhere to the vehicular emission standards. In fact, a majority of these vehicles run on a mixture of kerosene and diesel to save money. Studies have suggested that the amount of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) in Delhi’s air rises late at night with the corresponding flow of diesel-run trucks. The effects of RSPM, quite naturally, carry on into the early morning.  Over the past decade, Delhi’s air has become extremely toxic with smog shrouding the city’s air throughout the day. Particulate matter levels have also soared to often ten times the prescribed limits. Emissions from vehicles, especially those that run on diesel, have proved to be one of the major contributors to rising air pollution levels. The AAP government recently took a decision to allow cars with even and odd-numbered registrations on alternate days in order to cut down on vehicular emissions. The rule will be enforced from 8 am to 8 pm, except on Sundays. The concerns raised by Delhi citizens have ranged to from banal to original. One such relevant concern is the unavailability of a sophisticated public transport infrastructure.  Before ordering their citizens to forego their cars on particular days a week, especially women, the Delhi government must work out the modalities to establish last mile connectivity. Although feeder buses do run from certain metro stations, there aren’t enough to fulfill the commuter’s need for last-mile connectivity. Not everyone can afford to hire expensive taxis. The only alternative left is auto rickshaw. However, as discussed in these columns earlier, the permit raj surrounding the auto rickshaw continues to make it cumbersome for the average commuter. In response, the AAP government has asked the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to extend their servicing hours to handle the extra rush of passengers. Moreover, the AAP government has said that 6,000-odd DTC buses will be added to the city for the commuters. However, casting doubts over the Delhi government’s ambitious plan, the panel said that the odd-even formula for vehicles may “encourage” people to buy two cars. There is some truth to the NGT contention. The Delhi government seems to have understood that putting a premium on using roads is the only way to solve the problem of vehicular pollution. However, one is not sure whether the state has the institutional capacity to implement its proposal. The lack of adequate public transport to handle extra demand, an understaffed traffic police force to check violations ,and the counterfeiting of extra number plates are just some of the implementation issues that could arise. The AAP government has clarified that it is the responsibility of Delhi Police to implement the proposal. It has been well documented that the national capital suffers from a desperate shortage of personnel. A 222-page report by senior police officer Sanjay Beniwal prepared last year had pointed out the acute shortage of manpower in Delhi police. The total strength of Delhi’s police force is 77,894, of which 30,891 are deployed in 161 police stations spread across 11 police districts. Not enough for a population of 1.72 crore. The active duty ratio is one policeman for 5,568 citizens, as per the report. The odd/even proposal, therefore, is an additional burden to an already under-staffed and overworked police force. The NGT must also take cognizance of this fact, primarily because two orders in the past year that had sought to restrict the flow of diesel vehicles over a certain age limit, have failed to take shape.
MPost

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