CSE presents agenda for action to fight air pollution and protect the health of 'Aam Aadmi'
Narendra Ch | 20 Feb 2015

The CSE analysis shows: Exposure in all transport modes is very high: The average levels recorded are 2-4 times higher than the background levels reported by DPCC. Open modes like autorickshaws, walking and cycling have the highest exposure. During off-peak hours, all modes show lower levels: Difference between peak and off-peak was as follows -- autos 1.3 times higher; walking 1.5 times higher; and buses 2.5 times higher. Underground metro with sealed environment shows lower levels of about 209 microgramme per cubic metre. The overhead metro had levels of 330 microgramme per cu m. Pollution levels peak near junctions and in traffic jams: Pollution levels increase when traffic is stationary at junctions and in traffic jams. In a traffic jam on a stretch close to Paharganj, levels peaked at 1,170 microgramme per cu m. At a traffic jam near Govindpuri Metro Station, the peak level was 725 microgramme per cu m. Proximity to diesel trucks lead to extremely high exposure: A cycle ric

Shunned as one of the world's most polluted cities, Delhi is literally gasping for breath, with air pollution levels that seem to be skyrocketing without any restraint. And the 'aam aadmi' – common man – is the one facing the music: a latest analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) indicates exactly what kind of pollution levels is a common citizen exposed to while travelling in mass modes such as buses, the metro, autos or while walking.
Releasing the results of the analysis at a press conference here today, CSE director general Sunita Narain said: "As the overall air quality of Delhi worsens, our exposure to toxic air increases several-fold. The winter season is drawing to a close – but we must understand that Delhi cannot afford to face another severely polluted winter such as this one. The new Aam Aadmi Party government has taken on the reigns in Delhi; we expect it to now lay down the priority action to control air pollution and protect public health in the city."
The study and its results
In February 2015, CSE monitored air pollution levels in buses, autos, the metro, and while walking -- mainly to assess the amount of pollution that average citizens are exposed to on a daily basis while travelling in the city. Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE's executive director-research and advocacy and head of its Right to Clean Air campaign, said: "This helped us understand how much pollution people breathe on a daily basis in Delhi while travelling. Our data is quite shocking – we have found that daily personal exposure to toxic air is significantly higher than the background ambient air pollution that is monitored by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). This is a serious risk to public health."
The dust track aerosol monitor used by CSE measures both mass and size fraction of particulate matter. A real time monitoring was carried out in different modes of mass transportation during morning and evening traffic peak hours in the first two weeks of February. Their average exposure was compared with the background ambient levels monitored by the DPCC at the nearest official monitoring station.
Says Roychowdhury: "It is ironical that our public transport users, the majority in the city, who are part of the solution to the dangerous air pollution problem, themselves are vulnerable and victims of this highly toxic risk. This risk can be reduced only if a stringent clean air action plan is implemented in a time-bound manner."
Delhi cannot face another winter as severely polluted as this…
CSE applied the National Air Quality Index announced by the ministry of environment and forests to the PM2.5 levels this winter – October 2014-February 2015. The results showed:
  • Number of days with severe levels has remained consistently high all through. In December, 65 per cent of the days were in severe category; in January, it was about 47 per cent.
  • Several smog episodes: Globally, a smog episode is defined as three consecutive days when the pollution levels are elevated and remain in the worst category of the Air Quality Index. When CSE applied the criteria to the city's pollution levels, it found there were at least 12 smog episodes this winter! This is a critical situation -- in other countries, if cities are afflicted in a similar manner, immediate steps are taken to reduce car numbers, shut industrial units, and close down schools.
So what should the new AAP government focus on?
CSE released a priority action plan that includes pollution emergency action for smog episodes, and short- and medium-term measures for more lasting and durable change to meet clean air standards in a time-bound manner:
  • Implement the Air Quality Index with health advisories and pollution emergency measures.
  • Leapfrog emissions standards to Euro V in 2017, and Euro VI in 2020. Nation-wide Euro IV should be in place by 2015.
  • Control dieselisation with tax measures. Diesel has been branded as class I carcinogen by WHO. Need fiscal measures to keep clean fuels like CNG competitive vis-a-vis diesel.
  • Improve and scale up public transport and last mile connectivity: Bring all the 11,000 buses within a year. Ensure reliable and frequent services, GPS enabled public information system; multi-modal integration for metro and bus and last mile connectivity.
    • Delhi needs to meet the target of 11,000 buses
    • DTC has 4879 buses. Order for 1380 more buses has been placed.
    • 9 clusters have 1371 buses. To buy 1175 more buses
    • Earmark parking space for new buses. Lack of space has slowed down bus purchase
  • Implement the proposed plan for mass transport network including Metro, BRT, LRT as proposed in the revised Delhi Master Plan
  • Implement non-motorised network plan for time-bound implementation: Mandate people and cycling friendly street design guidelines and standards for all roads. These should be made mandatory for approval of road network projects in Delhi. Protect walkways and cycle tracks from encroachment and ensure safe crossing. Implement the provision of Motor Vehicle Act 1988 that bars vehicles from being parked on pavements. 
  • Restrain growth of cars with parking restraints and taxes: Eliminate free parking. Introduce effectively high and variable parking charges; introduce residential parking permits with fees. Ban parking on footpaths under the provision of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988. Implement parking management area plans to plan and implement legal parking, ban and penalise illegal parking and rationalise on-street and off-street parking; Prohibit parking in green areas and in neighbourhood parks.
  • Need stringent measures for on-road and older vehicles.
    • Tighten PUC testing method and compliance: Grossly polluting vehicles can occur at any age group or vintage and these will have to be weeded out with a good inspection programme and smoky vehicle checks.
    • Deploy more advanced in-use monitoring strategies. Integrate on-board diagnostic system for in-use inspection; introduce remote sensing technology for screening on-road vehicles among others.
    • Make PUC certificate conditional requirement for obtaining annual insurance for vehicles.
    • Need road worthiness tests for private vehicles.
    • Divert non-destined trucks and check overloading.
    • Stringent action on visibly polluting vehicles: Smoky vehicle inspection based on spot check and on-road surveillance, high penalty and instant removal from road can make a difference inside the city as well as along the borders.
    • For scrappage of old vehicles implement cleaner emissions standards for new vehicles that will replace older vehicles. Formal scrappage policy must ensure infrastructure to scrap old vehicles and at least 95 per cent of scrapped material is recycled. Implement end-of-pipe regulations for vehicle manufacturers to ensure more than 90 per cent of the material used in cars are recyclable.
    • Implement colour coding of old vehicles of pre-Euro I, Euro I and Euro II vintage and restrict their plying during smog episodes.
    • Impose higher taxes on older vehicles of Euro I and Euro II vintage.
  • Implement seamless public transport system in the NCR: Implement NCR-wide seamless bus system and para transit system and remove tolls and tax barriers across borders for public transport within a year under reciprocal agreement; Implement plan for improved rail network
  • Stop farm fires in the NCR: Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region. Need stringent enforcement under the Air Act 1980 to ban farm fires. This needs be enabled with incentive and subsidy for innovative farming methods that allow mixing of the straw with the soil to act as fertilizer and avoid stubble burning; Promote alternative uses of paddy straw for power generation.
  • Set up urban transport fund by tapping the revenue sources.
  • Need natural gas for power plants and stringent action on coal based power plants: Delhi has four power plants - Badarpur, Indraprastha, Pragati and Rajghat. Badarpur and Rajghat are Coal based plants while IP and Pragati are Gas based plants. Substantial improvement is possible if coal based power plants are converted to natural gas. But gas is not available. Ensure sustained and reliable gas supply.  Also tighten particulate matter standards for power plants. Introduce norms for NOx and Sox.
  • Innovate and leapfrog air quality monitoring: Exposure monitoring based on new emerging low cost but advanced sensor-based monitoring equipments can become a game changer in air quality monitoring globally. Needed to bridge the gap in data availability to citizens and assess personal exposure.
  • Need inter-state agreement to control and stop paddy straw and wheat straw burning after harvesting. Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region. Total paddy stubble burning area in ten districts of Haryana and Punjab is about 208.34 thousand hectares or 20.29 % of the total paddy area in the districts. Need stringent enforcement under the Air Act 1980 to ban farm fires. This needs be enabled with incentive and subsidy for innovative farming methods
    Promote alternative uses of paddy straw for power generation.
  • Need NCR-wide plan: Expand real-time air quality monitoring in the NCR and implement daily real-time data reporting.