14 ways citizens and govt can help reduce air pollution in Delhi

An environmentalist suggests few solutions, which, if adopted by both the administration and the people, can better the capital’s air quality

By Arvinder S Brara
Published: Thursday 15 November 2018
Delhi on the next morning after Diwali. Credit: Vikas Choudhary

Urgent actions are required to help reduce air pollution in Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, and restore various air parameters to levels safe for the health of its citizens and visitors. Here are few steps that can play an instrumental role in reducing air pollution in Delhi, which reached alarming levels of 485 AQI (air quality index), when the safe limit for humans is less than 100 AQI.

1. Car pooling: Reduce traffic-based air pollution and congestion by starting car pool lanes for those cars and four wheelers that have three or more passengers to encourage people to go for car pooling. Meanwhile, citizens too should take initiative and car pool with friends, colleagues, family wherever possible.

2. Use bicycles: Mark out bicycle lanes in residential colonies as well as on all roads in Delhi to encourage safe travel by bicycles. Meanwhile, citizens should also be encouraged to use bicycles.

3. Public transport: Encourage greater use of public transport by supporting the Metro, overhead rail and bus services to make it convenient for people to travel by public transport affordably and safely instead of using their own vehicles. Citizens too must shed hang-ups over social status and try to travel by public transport proactively.

4. More CNG vehicles: Encourage use of CNG in motor vehicles as it is a much cleaner fuel than petrol or diesel by considerably reducing the road tax and sales tax on CNG filled cars as compared to petrol and diesel four wheelers. Since there are at least 1,400 cars added to Delhi roads every day, all the cars should be restricted to using CNG only as all new petrol cars can be converted to CNG. Also, new registrations should be discouraged by enhancing registration charges.

5. Fuel-efficient cars: Encourage more fuel efficient four wheelers with better mileage per litre through road tax and sales tax incentives in addition to CNG requirement. Citizens should opt for more efficient and smaller cars that can run on CNG as alternate fuel.

6. Bigger trucks: Encourage six-axle trucks rather than the typical four-axle ones to increase the pay load per truck to reduce the number of trucks on roads. Trucks going to other destinations must not be allowed to pass through Delhi and only use the bypass.

7. Road signs: Improve the poor road signs so that people do not travel extra to locate their destinations. All the signs must be signposted at two or three places well before the turning rather than at the last minute.

8. Maintenance of roads: Better maintain roads to complexes such as Nehru Place to reduce the time a four wheeler spends on plying on such poor roads.

9. Shared taxis: The transport department should encourage shared taxi services by developing a taxi sharing website and set up taxi stands and cabs to offer reduced fares for shared service. This is other than the facilities Ola and Uber provide.

10. Burning waste: Burning of leaves, old tyres or any items in the open should be made a punishable offence in NCR with a fine of Rs 10,000 per incident as this is a major cause of air pollution. Citizens should be asked to report such incidents to helpline numbers and emails.

11. Solar power: Installation of solar panels should be encouraged at homes, multi-storey buildings and commercial establishments so that decentralised power is generated with suitable subsidies to make it financially viable for all households. The cost of solar panels has come down considerably. This should help retire all coal-based thermal power plants which are adding a lot to Delhi’s air pollution problems and adversely effecting climate change. In fact, thermal power plants in Delhi-NCR should be stopped from functioning till the AQI level is under 200.

12. Power backup: Inverters should be encouraged for back up supply and diesel generator sets should not be allowed to run in Delhi-NCR till the AQI level comes below 200.

13. Dump sites: Landfills should be better managed by the government to ensure there are no fires there.

14. RO-RO on roads: The present RO-RO (Roll-on-Roll-off) scheme launched by Indian Railways to carry loaded trucks on goods train to decongest Delhi roads and to reduce air pollution needs to be given a fill up and made compulsory for trucks which otherwise pass through Delhi.

(Arvinder S Brara, is the chairman and managing director of Mantec Consultants Pvt. Ltd. He is international consultant, environmentalist, rotarian and social activist)

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