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Health risks on your early morning walk

Health risks on your early morning walk
Winter mornings in Delhi are hardly the best time of the day. Every night, a large number of trucks pass through the city, spewing dirty diesel into the air. Add to that smoke from small fires lit by people for warmth and you end up with a massive build-up of pollutants in the atmosphere. Low temperatures and little or no wind leave even the greenest areas of the capital in the grip of deadly pollution.

Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) conducted real-time monitoring of particulate matter concentration at Lodi Garden, Nehru Park, Buddha Jayanti Park, and Sanjay Jheel, four of the city’s largest parks, in the early morning hours on December 9. In the late morning hours, monitoring shifted to prominent arterial crossings such as Noida link road-NH-24 intersection, Ashram flyover and Nehru Place flyover.

The monitoring, conducted using portable air quality monitoring equipment, revealed that while PM2.5 levels were alarmingly high in both parks and at road intersections, green areas had much higher PM2.5 levels than road crossings.

This trend can be explained by several factors. Firstly, there is a difference in the moisture levels of parks and intersections. Green spaces tend to have a higher accumulation of moisture in the form of dew and humidity, which traps the pollutants close to the ground and contributes to higher PM2.5 concentrations. Secondly, open areas such as arterial roads and spaces near them are windier and see the dispersal of pollutants due to a constant movement of vehicular traffic and high turbulence. In comparison, green spaces see less dispersal of pollutants and act as sinks where the particulate matter tends to settle down and accumulate.

Lastly, there is a marked correlation of temperature with PM2.5 levels. For the exposure study, the parks were monitored during the early morning when temperatures were still low. Arterial roads were monitored in the late morning hours when temperatures were much higher.

These pollution levels could put the health of people, especially children and the elderly, at risk. While many people exercise in public parks in the morning, children and adults are exposed to accumulated pollutants on their way to school and workplaces respectively.

Supreme Court calls for comprehensive action to tackle air pollution

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an application by SMYR Consortium LLP, the firm that collects toll tax on behalf of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi against the withdrawal of Rs. 7 crore by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), from its deposit. 

The apex court also made strong remarks on the rising air pollution in the national capital and had asked for a comprehensive and planned approach to fighting the alarming situation of Delhi’s polluted air.

A bench including the Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice R Banumathi was hearing the application filed by Shyam Diwan, the lawyer for the company. The court rejected the application saying it is clearly mentioned in the contract that SDMC can encash the bank guarantee if the company failed to deposit the fixed amount. It also rejected the plea to modify its order regarding the imposition of green tax on commercial vehicles entering Delhi.

The Consortium had paid only 70 percent (Rs 7.35 crores) of the mandated weekly charge of Rs 10.54 crores to the SDMC, citing reduced traffic as the reason. The Consortium claims that since an extra environment cess has been levied on trucks entering the city, the traffic has gone down considerably.

The matter is listed for further hearing on December 15, and the bench has asked for a comprehensive plan of short and medium-term solutions and will further take up this issue as a whole.

Concerned about the city’s pollution levels, Thakur said, “Why is there no discussion taking place? No forum is provided to deal with this problem. There are different committees and they must sit together. Let there be common, acceptable suggestions to solve Delhi’s pollution.”

The Supreme Court, in October, had passed an order imposing Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) of Rs 700 on all light goods vehicles and Rs 1,300 on heavy goods vehicles entering Delhi to control pollution levels. A Centre for Science and Environment report had said that 40-70 percent of the trucks entering Delhi are not destined for the city.i
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