Delhi’s dream of clean air goes up in smoke

Published: Friday 28 February 2014

imageDelhi lags behind Beijing in controlling air pollution, shows an assessment of air quality data and pollution control measures in the two capital cities by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). These cities need to clean up their air, but Delhi seems to lack Beijing’s scale, stringency and pace of action. CSE reviewed the official winter air quality data of Delhi (from October 1, 2013, to January 31, 2014) and found that the level of particulate matter less than 2.5 micron (PM2.5), the tiny particles that go deep inside the lungs, is dangerous. On two occasions during smog episodes (December 18 and January 5), PM2.5 levels had exceeded 10 and 8 times the permissible limits. Delhi could meet the standard on only three days during this period. But on 33 per cent of the days monitored this winter, daily levels were between 240 and 360 µg per cubic metre. On 14 per cent of the days, PM2.5 levels were higher than 350 µg per cubic metre. This is in sharp contrast to the official position of IITM-SAFAR, one of government’s monitoring agencies in Delhi, that claimed on February 1, 2014, that levels “hardly ever touched 350 µg per cubic metre”. In January 2014 alone, the levels had crossed 350 µg per cubic metre on nine days, shows Delhi Pollution Control Committee data. In the past four months, only one day would qualify as excellent and four days as good if Beijing’s health alert system is applied to Delhi’s winter pollution

Steps taken by Beijing

First generation action plan, until Beijing Olympics (2000- 2008)

  • Implements Euro IV emissions standards
  • Bans registration of diesel cars in 2003
  • Advanced inspection regime for vehicles
  • Restricts Euro III heavy duty vehicles; restricts and scraps movement of Euro I cars
  • Introduces 20,000 buses, metro and light railway
  • Introduces a system under which different days were fixed for allowing cars with odd or even number plates on roads
  • Implements stringent checks on industries
Second generation action plan (2008-2014)
  • Caps the number of cars to be sold in a year
  • Introduces Euro V emissions standards and fuel with 10 ppm sulphur for buses and municipal fleet in February 2013
  • Introduces vehicle inspection using remote sensing technology
  • Increases parking fee in February 2011
  • Improves subway and light railway network
  • Hikes subsidy on scrapping vehicles
  • Promotes CNG and electric vehicles


Steps taken by Delhi

First generation action (1998-2008)

  • Enforces Euro II emission standards in 2000 and Euro III in 2005
  • Mandates pre-mix petrol to two- and three-wheelers; introduces unleaded petrol
  • Implements largest ever CNG programme for city buses and three-wheelers
  • Caps the number of three-wheelers
  • Phases out 15-year-old commercial vehicles
  • Strengthens vehicle inspection programme
  • Efforts made to reduce traffic congestion
  • Relocates polluting industries; sets up two natural gas plants; bans open burning
Second generation action (2008 - 2014)

  • Expands the metro rail network, introduces 6,000 new buses
  • Introduces Euro IV standards in 2010; upgrades tests for pollution certificates
  • Starts Air Ambience Fund in 2009 for promoting clean air policies
  • Constructs 40 km of cycle tracks with new footpaths in 2010
  • Nominal increase in parking rates in New Delhi Municipal Council areas



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