A green resolution
2020 must witness the government and citizens of NCR committed to sustainable solutions in a collective bid to tackle the perennial menace of air pollution
The year 2019 has just come to an end, leaving Delhi Citizens with a number of issues to ponder over and work upon towards improvement in 2020.
The air pollution in Delhi-NCR is easily amongst the top few issues that require urgent attention and due redressal. The Government of Delhi has eventually come to terms with the urgency of the issue and have undertaken schemes like Odd-Even as an SOS measure of sorts. However, there is a need to simultaneously undertake multiple initiatives to bring about a quick turn around.
Transportation is the largest source of air pollution in Delhi, contributing 18-39 per cent to the city's pollution followed by road dust which is the second-largest source of air pollution in Delhi (18-38 per cent), followed by industries (2-29 per cent), power plants (3-11 per cent) and construction (8 per cent).
On behalf of the Consulting Engineers Association of India and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and in my capacity as Chair and Co-Chair of their respective infrastructure committees, I would like to suggest a few practical, workable solutions to the Government of Delhi and its Pollution Control Board, as well as the Central Pollution Control Board to tackle hazardous air pollution.
In order to ensure a sustainable planet for the future generations, emphasis should be on cutting off pollutants at the source rather than looking at a quick fix and short term solutions to tide over the situation. Tackling the air pollution menace is not in the number of plans but in the proper implementation and monitoring of the measures adopted. Coordination between Delhi and its surrounding States is critical to forge effective and long-lasting solutions.
As matured and experienced administrators and professionals, it is time to act as catalysts to initiate priority measures including promoting ways and means of cutting down on the use of fossil fuels and investing in electrical power and solar power. We must also keep high-polluting vehicles away from cities and plan their end of life.
Well conceived and operational public transportation systems must be made operational and given proper government funding and support. Better maintenance and traffic management of roads to reduce travel time is also a must.
Controlling air pollutant emissions from power plants by adopting tailpipe treatment technologies seems to be a suitable way to combat part of the problem. This needs to be taken up immediately and completed on priority, say in six months' time. Furthermore, incentives must be provided to brick kilns for adopting zigzag technology within the fixed tenure of, say one year. Those who do not do so should be closed down.
Next, Installing smog towers at identified hot spots (to begin as Pilot projects) must be a near-future priority. Penalties must also be levelled for construction sites that do not follow pollution control measures. Efficient waste management systems that cover all types of waste must be implemented and provided with necessary guidance and budget. Heavy penalties must be levelled for burning of garbage. This must be adopted on topmost priority, say in the next 6 to 9 months.
Proper and effective control of polluting industries must be maintained and they must be assisted with technological solutions that ensure implementation. To achieve this, financial assistance at low-interest rates should be made available. Any industry, if found lacking in taking corrective action, should be closed down.
Agricultural pollution must be countered by promoting the use of technologies in the agricultural sector so as to dissuade them from the burning of agricultural waste. Compliance must be rewarded suitably through incentives and assistance.
Returning to the matter of road pollution, development of a green corridor along roads and vertical gardens on tall buildings should be implemented.
Furthermore, enhanced parking rates for vehicles must be implemented for graded air pollution scenario to discourage the use of vehicles.
To supplement this, adoption of international best practices ranging from congestion pricing to deployment of suitable and effective strategies to continually monitor and contain air pollution may be implemented. Identifying and replicating Vehicle free zones such as Karol Bagh market area may also prove effective.
Finally, data transparency would enable all elements of the society to participate in achieving environmental objectives of clean air. Engaging the public and all stakeholders to strengthen environmental protection measures and help in achieving cleaner and greener NCR must be an important milestone.
We are confident that the implementation of the above-stated measures, simultaneously and monitored for feedback, will bring marked improvement in Delhi NCR's air quality.
K K Kapila is Co-Chairperson, FICCI Infrastructure Committee and Chairperson, Infra Committee,
Consulting Engineers Association of India (CEAI). Views expressed are strictly personal