Air pollution in Delhi and NCR is creating havoc. Breathing is a luxury now in the nation capital. PM2.5 and PM10 levels are hazardous and the average Air Quality Index (AQI) keeps diving. In fact, the Supreme Court had to intervene and it flayed the Delhi Government as well as the Center for their inability to control the Delhi Smog. The Apex Court called for immediate action and termed Delhi pollution life-threatening. Things have been so bad. It also called the situation emergency-like. Delhi has seen major environmental problems. What is the way out?

“Delhi over the years has seen a variety of actions to reduce air pollution in the past two decades, some of the major ones have been shifting entire passenger public transport to CNG, setting up gas-based power plants, introducing tougher emission norms for vehicles, relocating polluting industries and mandating clean fuels. More recently, a hefty pollution cess as environment compensation charge has been imposed on trucks. All these measures help the city in keeping the emissions in check, otherwise the situation would have been much worse,” says Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Senior Program Manager, Air Pollution Control Unit, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

People are fighting the deadly Delhi pollution day in and day out to the extent that it has become a national issue. Though there was some temporary respite, the overall air quality situation continues to be grim. How does one control such exceptionally high levels of pollution? The Delhi government took a number of steps to control the situation such as ban on construction activity, shutting down schools, ban on entry of trucks in Delhi, suggesting the odd even scheme, etc. All of the above have proved insufficient to curb the Delhi pollution.

“Still a lot needs to be done in terms of improving bus services, providing last mile connectivity, good and safe walking and cycling infrastructure, curbing industrial emissions and dust suppressant measures, along with better garbage management so that refuse burning can be stopped. In summary, Delhi smog has its origins in emissions from vehicles, industries, refuse burning, and dust. Moreover, a large portion of the smog is also contributed by neighboring cities and states which haven’t strengthened their actions on all fronts,” told Vivek Chattopadhyaya, of the CSE to

“Smog is also episodic in nature as smoke from Punjab, Haryana crop residue burning also enters the city. However, its impact depends on wind direction to Delhi, this year smog had further contribution from dust storms from the Middle East,” explains Vivek.

300% increase in patients with bronchitis and asthma: Delhi Pollution

Things actually got out of hand due to Delhi pollution. There has been a 300% increase in number of people with respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma. Hospitals in Delhi continue to be full of patients. Hundreds of people have been complaining of burning eyes and heaviness in breathing. The Delhi smog is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes a day.

“We should target what we can change in India and prepare state-wise and city-wise action plans to control and reduce air pollution from all sources and not to delay control options. In cases where tighter norms are needed, we should carry them out such as power plants, industries, vehicles, without delay, and, where alternatives /support is needed (farmers to reduce farm fires) we need to proceed fast. It’s a continuous process, so there are no shortcuts in achieving and retaining clean air,” adds Vivek of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is India’s leading not-for-profit public interest research as well as advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, India. CSE is an NGO pioneering as a think tank on environment-development issues in India, such as planning, climate shifts devastating India’s Sundarbans and advocates for policy changes and better implementation of the already existing policies. CSE uses knowledge-based activism to create awareness about problems and propose sustainable solutions. It is driven by the director Sunita Narain.