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YOU DON’T BREATHE HERE, YOU GASP

Friday, 09 May 2014 | Sweta Goswami | New Delhi

The ambitious ‘Clean Air Action Plan’ of the Delhi Government has failed to materialise for want of a proper coordination between the various Government agencies. Two years have elapsed and the proposal continues to be on paper. As the Environment Department officials rued, there is little they can do as they are yet to receive suggestions and feedback sought from various departments to prepare the draft plan.

With the pollution level in Delhi on a constant rise in the last one decade, the ‘Clean Air Action Plan’ was pinned as a long-term solution to the menace. The programme was supposed to be rolled out towards the end of 2012. Nearly two years on, it is nowhere in sight. Citing the status of the plan, Anil Kumar, director, Environment Department said, “It is in process. We have sent the draft plan to various departments for their suggestions and objections. Once that is done, we will be able to push it forward.”

The draft Clean Air Action Plan was finalised by Delhi’s Environment Department in November 2012. But it failed to get the Cabinet nod and was sent back to the concerned agency. “The proposal was delayed as the first draft was not cleared by the Cabinet. The plan was put back on the drawing board under the higher authority of the Chief Secretary. The Cabinet sought more detailing, and better coordination and cooperation of all the departments that are expected to implement multi-pronged strategies within their jurisdiction,” said an official in the department.

While the plan was put on the backburner, air pollution levels have surged unabated. Delhi’s major chunk of pollutant comes from vehicular emissions. “There are 7.5 million vehicles plying in Delhi today. Around 1,400 vehicles are added to this number every day. In this, inter-State vehicles, which are mostly diesel-based, are the major contributors. The environment department has very little to do as vehicles, the key polluters, are out of their jurisdiction.

This is why it is of utmost importance that the Clean Air Action Plan is implemented at the earliest,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, head, Clean Air programme, Centre for Science and Environment. In the absence of the programme, the role of the environment department has been confined to dealing only with open burning of biomass, and industrial and power plant pollution.

After vehicular emissions, small scale industries and thermal power plants are the next major air pollutants emitting poisonous sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide gasses. “Construction activities and open burning and harvest haze are also major reasons. In winters we have a lot of smog accumulated in Delhi’s air. This is because neighbouring States like Punjab and Haryana burn their dead crops leading to major rise in air pollution,” said an official.

Once the action plan is implemented, all vehicle insurances in the city will depend on whether it has cleared its annual fitness test. Four-wheelers will be required to undergo a compulsory test, based on which insurance companies will be directed to re-issue insurance. It also includes a specific strategy for two-wheelers as the state pollution data claim that 54 per cent of the total pollution levels in Delhi are due to two-wheelers.

 
 
 

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