Towards a breath of relief
In recent times, Delhi winters have been synonymous with worst air quality and peaking pollution. With a tendency to deteriorate faster than expected, the air quality dipping to 'severe' category according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), concerted efforts have been initiated to address the hazardous situation. The consistency of the initiatives undertaken, however, is the critical factor in determining its efficacy. The toxicity in Delhi's air is to the extent that the cleanest air in the capital recorded at monitoring stations (in Pusa and Aya Nagar) lay in the higher end of 'very poor' level with AQIs (air Quality Index) of 361. AQIs between 301 and 400 belong to the 'very poor' category and those from 401 to 500 are fall in the 'severe' category. Severe levels of air pollution not only complicate the health of those who are already ailing but also creates a condition for ill health for all people in general. Pollution across the national capital in particular is primarily because of the decrease in wind speed which causes a lack of ventilation and the subsequent accumulation of pollutants in the land-locked city. The dipping temperatures together with low mixing layer height that prevents the dispersion of smoke and other pollutants in the atmosphere are also factors at play. Insisting on the notion that clean air is everybody's right, Delhi citizens' body United Residents' Joint Action (URJA) has launched a campaign against pollution of air, water, and solid waste - and has sought a roadmap from political leaders in view of the upcoming Assembly elections in the national Capital. URJA networks with around 2500 resident welfare associations RWAs in the capital. The concern for air pollution among other things has raised ten key demands to be achieved through a roadmap and time-bound targets: 65 per cent reduction in air pollution levels by 2025 to meet the national standards for safeguarding public health being one of them. In this direction, the government of Delhi has taken a step towards clean mobility with the passage of an electric vehicle policy in the Delhi cabinet. Under this, the government will provide subsidy to promote e-vehicles in addition to the formation of an electric vehicle board for the implementation of the policy. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that this initiative will have a subsidy amounting to Rs 30,000 per vehicle which will be given to electric auto rickshaw and e-rickshaws. The AAP-led Delhi government has a target for 25 per cent of vehicles to be electric vehicles by 2024, and in the process, reduce air pollution and generate employment. The AAP-led Delhi government has approved a policy on electric vehicles with particular focus on two-wheelers, shared transport vehicles, and commercial vehicles to lead the change to electric mobility, at a time when Delhi is grappling with toxic levels of air pollution. "Pollution levels are very high in Delhi and vehicles contribute a lot to that. We had circulated the first draft in November 2018. After several rounds of discussions, this policy has been made. By 2024, we want that 25 per cent of the vehicles to be electric vehicles. The aim is to reduce air pollution and create large scale jobs. The emphasis is on two-wheelers and public transport because they operate more," the Chief Minister announced at a news conference after a meeting of the state cabinet. The policy will be valid for three years from the date of notification. Electric two-wheelers are less than 0.2 per cent of annual sales and three-wheelers stand close to zero today. Targeting to bring in 35,000 e-vehicles and 250 charging stations by next year is not only pragmatic and necessary but also well-timed. The government hopes that in five years, 5 lakh electric vehicles will be registered. Killing two birds with a stone, the popular use of e-vehicles will not only curb vehicular pollution, but also, create scope for generating employment opportunities with respect to driving, selling, financing, servicing, and charging EVs. Making new home and workplace parking spaces 'EV-ready' with 20 per cent of the parking being EV-enabled, this initiative is one to take common standards of living a notch above. The Delhi government is ready to give 100 per cent subsidy for the purchase of charging equipment up to Rs. 6,000 per charging point for the first 30,000 charging points at homes and workplaces. This will be routed through power distribution companies responsible for charger installations. Further, with an incentive of Rs 5,000 per kWh of battery capacity to be given for two-wheelers, it is a more consumer-friendly deal as "For an average e-two wheeler with 2kWh battery, the applicable incentive would be approximately Rs 10,000 compared to the ₹5,500 being offered by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee as subsidy for battery electric vehicles". Ideally, working towards creating a more enduring solution to Delhi's bad air, that is, by means of planting more trees and increasing green cover are effective long-run solutions but have a long gestation period. In terms of immediate solutions and instant results, this Delhi government has once again made the right move.
(image from indianexpress.com)