Air pollution

The Modi government released the National Air Quality Index (AQI) for public information

Published: Monday 25 May 2015

 The new National Air Quality Index has been uploaded on the website of the Central Pollution Control Board where it is open to the public (Credit: Meeta Ahlawat)

There was no place for air pollution in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election manifesto. Around 50 per cent of Indian cities are severely affected by particulate pollution which is a public health hazard.

The BJP manifesto had, however, talked about building an integrated public transport system to discourage the use of private vehicles in urban areas.

“The BJP realises the importance of travel for the vibrancy of the economy and social unity. BJP will create a public transport system, which can reduce the dependence on personal vehicles for transport…,” the manifesto had stated.

Another promise was to initiate building of 100 new smart cities with the latest technology and infrastructure facilities by adhering to sustainability concepts like walk-to-work.

An assessment of the yearlong work of the Modi government shows that not much has been done on clean air and sustainable mobility fronts.

Prakash Javadekar, Union environment minister

Government’s hits and misses

  • Though the BJP election manifesto did not include tackling air pollution, the government had to show its concern due to increasing public concern and extensive media reportage.
  • Subsequently, the Modi government released the National Air Quality Index (AQI) for public information. The new AQI has been uploaded onto the website of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). AQI has been developed for six pollutants—PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.
  • The government seems to be dragging its feet on the auto fuel policy committee report. The Auto Fuel Vision and Policy-2025 report was submitted to the government, but its recommendations have not been notified as yet. However, the government has expedited the implementation of Euro IV fuel in north India from April 1, 2015.
  • Even after four revisions, the Road Transport and Safety Bill is yet to see the light of day. Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport and highways, announced in June 2014 that the government will re-draft the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in line with advanced international practices to enhance road safety. The Bill, if passed by the Parliament, would replace the existing Motor Vehicles Act of 1988.
  • The Delhi Decongestion Plan was a roadmap submitted by the high-powered committee set up by the Union urban development ministry to address one of Delhi’s most critical challenges. There are, however, gaps in the plan which can compromise its effectiveness. Though it is based on correct principles, the plan budget is centred around car infrastructure and does not contain clear targets to strengthen public transport, connectivity, walking and cycling.

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