Govt committed to combat pollution, says Gopal Rai
The city’s ambient air quality (outdoor air quality over a 24-hour period as opposed to real time) also continues to be “very poor”, a situation that is extremely harmful for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children. Experts say, the sheer amount of microscopic pollutants, that Delhi’s air bear would have prompted authorities in Beijing, another severely polluted mega city, to issue advisories restricting outdoor activities, shutting down factories and regulating vehicular movement.
“A situation of public health emergency prevails in Delhi and each winter Delhi chokes,” says Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in a private news channel. Narain also says in her tweets that the government has the solution for improving Delhi’s air and that now time has come to implement them.
Even though the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the past has conducted meetings with the state and the Central government over Delhi’s poor air quality and come up with several steps, the present rap by the green court to the state government only highlights that steps decided upon to improve the situation has not made any impact.
This comes at a time when there is competition between Delhi and Beijing over which city would outdo the other in being the most polluted one, a tag that will put either of the countries to great disrepute. Incidentally, a climate change conference is also taking place where the world leaders including India are discussing ways and measures to improve the environment.
Regarding the steps taken by the Delhi government to improve the Capital’s air quality, transport minister Gopal Rai says: “I accept that Delhi’s air is highly poisonous but the Delhi government is committed in improving the situation.”
Listing the measures in this direction, Rai talks of imposing environment tax on commercial vehicles, launching the Car-Free Day on the 22nd of every month along with the Delhi government’s initiative to discourage burning of wastes amongst others.
Rai also says that there is an urgent need to lessen vehicles on the road and for that public transportation system has to be strengthened.
On this, Rai says: “There is a requirement of 10,000 buses in Delhi and at present there are 6,000 buses including cluster and DTC buses plying in the city. In future, as many as 2,000 more buses are expected to be added and there would be five bus depots coming into operation.”
Regarding the land for these depots, Rai says: “The land is under DDA and though there have been issues regarding this between the Delhi government and the DDA, it needs to be sorted out through constructive dialogue, especially in this kind of situation where pollution has become a severe threat.”
Talking on Delhi’s air, Shirin Bithal, research associate at the CSE said: “It is startling and shocking that in this air, an event like marathon is taking place. In any other city or country, this kind of event in such situations would have been banned.” On being asked what did she expect the government to do to improve Delhi’s air, Bithal mentioned: “A statutory air warning must be set up by the government on an urgent basis as it is important for the citizens to realise that the air they are breathing is dangerous. Most of the citizens do not understand the dangers between the data and figures.”