I have been hugely concerned about the traffic in Delhi NCR, which has a number of reasons including but not limited to: Large population riding >15 million vehicles, crop burning in nearby states, leaves burning all over, dust on roads, crackers burning on festivals, smoking, old vehicles.
While I have been contemplating writing an article on that, I came across a similar one by my college super senior – Ankur Jain, which he wrote after we faced a heavy dose of smog in recent days arising from an Air-Lock resulting in dangerously high AQI values across all parts of Delhi.
Thanks Ankur for the permission.
So, here I am reproducing his views sourced from his Facebook post on 13 November 2017.
Random thoughts on pollution:
1. The current smog situation in Delhi is alarming. The AQI went off the scales at 999 in many parts.
2. The major reason is burning of stubble across farms in Punjab and Haryana. The farmers burn the stubble since there is a very small window of 15-20 days after the harvest of the Kharif crops like Rice to clear the fields and prepare them for the sowing of the Rabi crops. Arranging labour for this job is not only very costly, but also impossible due to the vast requirements of people. Most farmers also have razor thin margins and are thus not able to afford extra costs. This has happened only after the MNREGA scheme since labourers are now getting higher wages and MSP of the crops has not kept pace with that. (Reference article – https://theprint.in/…/11/07/terrorise-stubble-burning-prob…/)
3. Delhi government (Kejriwal) cannot be blamed for the massive smoke coming from Haryana or Punjab. Anyone who criticises his government for this is being unnecessarily naive.
4. However, Kejriwal has not shared his plan of what he does with the farmers of Delhi who might be burning their stubble. Manohar Lal Khattar has asked him this question today, putting him in a peculiar situation! (Photo in first comment)
5. Additionally, Kejriwal has blamed Haryana and Punjab for the same. Khattar, in the same letter, clarifies that situation is much better in Haryana than in the past due to taking steps on the same. Khattar also blames Punjab for a bulk of the problem in the present and shares that Punjab is yet to spend money given by central government for the same whereas Haryana has spent 39 crores out of the 45 crores allocated. It is not clear where the money has been spent (expect cheap politics on that shortly) but it is true that the problem is much less in Haryana than in the past.
6. A very long term solution is to use the Paddy husk for production of heat. With brick kilns closing down a lot in the NCR due to pollution concerns, this erstwhile market has closed down.
7. Another long term solution is to use the Paddy husk for generation of alcohol or Methane Gas. India currently mixes 10% alcohol to 90% petrol and then sells it. The NITI Aayog has recommended that this be increased to 20%. (References – 1. http://www.business-standard.com/…/basmati-rice-producer-kr… 2. http://www.business-standard.com/…/govt-to-set-up-first-2g-… 3. http://www.business-standard.com/…/praj-starts-second-gener…)
8. Other causes of the smog or pollution in Delhi include construction activity. Many of these activities are under various agencies and blame/solution lies with each of them. E.g. DMRC is constructing the Delhi metro in phases since 1998 and is one the best civic agencies I have ever seen in my life. Their sites are the safest, best managed, well-lit and there is hardly any dust emanating from their sites. Contrast this to the MCDs (run by the BJP for last 10 years) which have a horrible track record of dust pollution. Agencies under the central govt like CPWD are almost like DMRC but agencies under the city govt (AAP run for nearly 3 years) are only marginally better than the MCDs. Private construction in Noida/Faridabad/Gurgaon/Ghaziabad are almost as bad as the MCDs. These are a major source of pollution on Delhi roads.
9. Another reason for Delhi pollution is large number of trucks and commercial vehicles running through Delhi where the origin or the destination is not Delhi. Delhi has a large number of national highways passing through it and trucks naturally want to take advantage of the great connectivity. One can ban such trucks but in the absence of good roads elsewhere they flout the ban. Such vehicles are currently allowed entry/exit only at night and only after paying a hefty charge of 2000 rupees. Delhi is still crowded.
10. A solution to that has been tried where the trucks climb upon trains and cross urban stretches. Indian Railways in February tried trials where entry was near Gurgaon (South West of Delhi) and exit near Ghaziabad (East of Delhi). The railways earn money and utilise their tracks and trains. The trucks can enter/exit anytime of the day and at a cost that is approximately the same as driving them through this route.
11. Another is the construction of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway and the Western Peripheral Expressway. This is a long term solution to reduce the number of trucks in the NCR, especially those which neither originate from nor are destined to the NCR regions. The central government has done a great job along with the Haryana government in expediting the same which was hanging fire for the last 10-15 years (despite Congress governments in the state and the centre). (Reference https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/…/articles…/61599959.cms)
12. Other causes of pollution in Delhi are over reliance on private vehicles and the consequent extra pollution. Long term measures should include a premium priced, better, more reliable bus services, which can attract car drivers to leave the cars and travel in relative comfort at a higher price. A lower price only encourages cycle riders to leave their cycles for buses. Kejriwal government needs to get its priorities right.
13. Number of DTC buses has gone down over the last 2.5+ years Mr. Kejriwal has been chief minister. This needs change.
14. Metro services need upgradation in form of more rolling stock. I used to travel in the metro for some time but the crowd and the dhakka mukki makes me take my car again and again. I would prefer a first class / premium dabba where seating is assured. It is up to DMRC to find a workable solution for the same.
15. Parking at Metro stations should be cheap. That would encourage people to leave cars and go by metro. But the parking can be misused by other people. To change that, we can have the metro card used for paying fares and integrating the car parking and the metro travelling. Essentially, somehow a system should be made that only a person riding the metro should be able to ride. If a person leaves his car there, but does not travel by the metro then the system should detect and charge a normal fare.
16. Pathake? Crackers? Kar lo bhai ban inhe bhi! Om Shanti Shanti!
Feel free to post your comments below.