Delhi Responsible For Its Pollution, No Option But to Restrict Private Vehicles: Environment Body
EPCA chief Bhure Lal said even after removing trucks and other commercial vehicles that run on diesel, the remaining vehicles are responsible for a substantial amount of pollution.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court appointed pollution watchdog EPCA said that Delhi’s air quality crisis was largely of its own making and there was no option but to restrict the use of private vehicles as the current improvement brought by showers is temporary at best.
Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority chief Bhure Lal wrote to the Central Pollution Control Board on Wednesday, asking it to consider steps regarding private vehicles, in the inevitable scenario that air pollution spikes.
Pointing out that 'at best' the air in Delhi was 'very poor', which has dire consequences for human health, Lal wrote, “We have no option but to consider measures that restrict private vehicles.”
Explaining the reasons for this, he noted that vehicles contribute as much as 40 per cent of the total emission load in Delhi and roughly 30 per cent in the region, according to SAFAR emission inventory.
He added that even after removing trucks and other commercial vehicles that run on diesel, the remaining vehicles add up to a substantial load, particularly private diesel vehicles which contribute substantially to both NOx and PM emissions.
He added that “other cities like Paris or Beijing include restriction on private vehicles, which is done either by number plate or by fuel type/age”.
Lal further said that while the Supreme Court had identified vehicles by fuel type and age and directed for a vehicle scheme, which is yet to take off, the only option left was to “look at either a complete ban on all private vehicles (without the identification of petrol or diesel), other than CNG and/or restriction on plying by number plate (odd-even).”
However, he conceded that restriction on private vehicles without adequate public transport “creates huge inconvenience to people.”
Delhi Responsible for Its Poor Air
Intermittent and scattered rainfall has improved Delhi’s air from ‘severe’ to ‘very poor’ category. But Lal warned that “rain can also lead to increase in air pollution, as the moisture traps pollutants”.
The Met Department has said that with the wind direction changing and increasing in speed on one hand, and crop burning likely to stop soon, the worst of the November’s air pollution could be behind.
But Lal wrote that this didn’t mean that this was permanent.
“Since Delhi is greatly responsible for its poor air quality this does not mean that air quality could not once again decline in the coming months. It is now clear that the region's own sources of pollution are greatly responsible for the poor air quality we have seen in the past 15 days,” he wrote.
Crop burning can ‘exacerbate’ the situation, but it is also clear that “even if we eliminate crop burning in the coming months, weather conditions will only get more adverse.” With increasing cold, air pollutants will get trapped and Lal said that the need of the hour was to be better prepared.
Emergency Measures Can’t be Proxy for Inaction
Explaining its decision to overturn measures such as ban on construction activities, Lal wrote that he was acutely aware of the economic woes of daily labourers, who went without jobs because of the closure of construction and other industrial activities in the capital. “It is, therefore, clear that-we cannot impose these emergency measures as a proxy for our inaction on long term emission reduction.”
Regarding the entry and exit of trucks in Delhi, he wrote, “It is also clear that the ban on truck entry into Delhi led to improvement in air quality, but again, it cannot be sustained over the 3-4 nights that we imposed it this time. The number of Delhi-bound trucks at the border increased enormously and the situation could have gotten out of hand. Furthermore, halted trucks add to congestion and inconvenience of people who live in nearby cities.”
The need of the hour, Lal said, was the Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) which has now been notified but still ‘nowhere close to implementation’.
“The question then is, if actions on these crucial measures like public transport are inadequate, should we also not include emergency measures to restrict private vehicles on the days when pollution episodes peak and in particular when there is a prolonged period of high air pollution?” he said.