Delhi’s headache: Combatting pollution without any scientific study?

If there is no scientific study on the sources of air pollution in Delhi as Manish Sisodia said, then what is the basis of the claim that most of the pollution in Delhi comes from neighbouring states?

Photo by Mahendra Pandey
Photo by Mahendra Pandey
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Mahendra Pandey

Recently news agency IANS carried a news item, “Delhi approves real-time study of air pollution.” The news item informs that the Delhi Government had approved a real-time source apportionment study for air pollution in Delhi with a budget of ₹1.2 crore and a time frame of 18 months. The study would be done by the Department of Energy, Environment and Chemical Energy, University of Washington, USA.

It carries an honest statement of Manish Sisodia, deputy CM of NCT Delhi, “There has been no scientific study on pollution in Delhi. After the study, the government will have data for all different reasons of air pollution which will help in policy-making”.

The statement is honest and shocking at the same time. It reveals that we do not have any environmental policy, even if we formulate any, it does not have any scientific basis. Then why do the governments (both Central and State) befool the people and even the Hon’ble Courts on environmental issues? The result is clear and loud – there are only failures on the environmental front. There is no scientific basis of our data and even the environmental standards, and still the governments have courage to dump the scientific reports without any basis.

The Central Pollution Control Board has formulated environmental standards without any scientific basis. We have graded response system for Delhi’s air pollution but any scientific basis is missing. Actually, the governments have taken out science from the environmental issues. The much hyped odd-even scheme was implemented without any scientific basis. Even the recent National Clean Air Programme does not have any science behind it.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and other regulatory agencies wake up only during catastrophic pollution levels and know about dust from construction sector and gases from garbage burning. Almost all construction projects have got Environmental Clearance (EC) by concerned authorities which is controlled by the Ministry of Environment.

All EC letters mention that the project has to control dust emission and also that each project would submit a compliance report twice a year. In addition, the Green Tribunal has also passed an order for control of dust emission from construction projects located in Delhi NCR.

The Ministry has power to inspect any of the construction projects with EC at any time. The truth of these ECs are known to all, it is not granted but sold at a hefty price. Since it is sold, not a single project owner takes any step for control of dust emission or any other environmental measure.

The officers who visit the site to check compliance remain concerned only about a thick envelop and nothing else. If the condition of control of dust emission from the construction projects is followed strictly, a large fraction of air pollution problem of Delhi NCR would go, but who cares if the envelop is thick.

While Centre and Delhi Government, both demand more number of monitoring stations, more equipment, help from satellite pictures, more monitoring horizontally and vertically – no one cares about visible sources of pollution. In Delhi, garbage burning and dry leaves burning is quite common, it is seen daily at one place or the other. Many government offices and even MCD staff do it regularly, but not a single organisation even try to check the practice.

There is large scale farming on river Yamuna floodplain and burning of agricultural waste after harvesting is quite common, but Delhi government tells NGT that burning of agricultural waste is not practiced here. Road dust is quite common, but vacuum dust remover vehicles are rarely visible on the roads.

A large part of Burari to Jahangirpuri was prosperous wetland, but DDA treated it like wasteland. The land was allotted for various construction projects and now the wetland has converted into a pool of dust. Even with slight wind, the dust blows all over in the area.

If there is no scientific study on the sources of air pollution in Delhi as informed by Manish Sisodia, a big question arises, what was the basis for odd-even scheme and on what basis Arvind Kejriwal tells that most of the pollution in Delhi arrives from neighboring states?

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