Millennium Post

Air solutions

With an AQI reading of 100, Delhi on a fine February Sunday finally rose above the smoky winters. Hitting the 'Satisfactory' level on the measuring scale was very important for Delhi as Winter recedes and Spring takes over. It has been widely understood in the past decade that Delhi air quality takes a big fall in winters owing to low atmospheric pressure coupled with the city's high urban density. These two factors alone cannot cause such a massive pollution cloud. They only exacerbate the situation caused by a variety of pollution factors. Vehicular emissions, crop residue burning, factories in the region — all contribute, in varying shares, in the grim situation that chokes the citizens of the national capital. Keeping with the trend, the third week of February saw an expected rise in AQI. The cleaner air despite SC-imposed restrictions on construction in Delhi being lifted a fortnight ago confirms Delhi's winter pollution syndrome. The relatively good AQI provides motivation for making headways in combatting pollution. The Delhi government has consulted IIT Bombay for installation of a 20-foot smog tower in CP as mandated by the Supreme Court which also suggested one for Anand Vihar. Both the towers might be erected within this year, yet their functional capacity might not be adequate enough to control the deteriorating air quality in winters. BS-VI fuel is already in use in the NCR and it is expected to cut emissions. But the advent of e-mobility is a must if Delhi needs the breathing space. As the e-mobility scheme FAME enters phase two, what is really required in Delhi is the change in the mindset of people. Residents of Delhi must begin to seriously consider public transportation as an alternative. Congestion on roads is a major contributor to vehicular emissions that play an instrumental hand in worsening of the city's air quality. Bold steps like restricted vehicle entry in inner parts of the city and no vehicle entry during day hours can be pursued like in the case of some European cities that have successfully tackled the pollution menace. Imposing traffic restrictions might be an inconvenient affair but it will be very advantageous for Delhi which is largely choked by vehicular emissions throughout the year. Incentivising CNG, electric-powered vehicles and cycles or public transport will serve the city dearly. The lifestyle change that is required here will certainly not come easy but is one that will change the outlook of the city in entirety should it be aptly implemented. Delhi earnestly requires air solutions to defeat the underlying problem of pollution, once and for all.

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