You are on page 1of 9

Dangerous levels of air pollution in

Delhi NCR: What we can do about it?

Everyone realizes that pollution is a big problem. Yet, most people express their
helplessness to solve it. That is because; we are conditioned to believe that we should
solve problems individually. We are given to believe that we should earn more money to
get rid of our problems. But very often pollution is caused by our blind pursuit to earn
money at all cost. So rather than reducing pollution, our individual efforts lead to even
more dangerous levels of pollution for everyone.
In this essay, in the first part, it looks into the sources and causes of pollution. In the
second part, it explores ways in which we can reduce or el
iminate pollution and policy
recommendations for the government to create a healthy, pollution
free environment.
This is with specific reference to Delhi National Capital Region which has the dubious
distinction of being the most polluted city in the world.

Pallavi Sinha, 40, is scouting for a house in Pune. The Sinhas had moved to Indirapuram in
Ghaziabad 10 years ago. But when their 10-year-old daughter Smriti suffered an asthma attack on
Diwali last year, they decided to move out of the city. “We had started to fear Diwali ever since we
moved to Delhi from Patna a decade ago. Smriti’s collapse last October because of high air pollution
was the last straw, we’re all moving to Pune,” said Sinha, speaking to HT from Pune.
When they had moved to Delhi, Sinha’s older daughter Ahana was 5 and Smriti was just a few
months old. The baby first developed signs of lung distress at the age 3, which progressively
became worse. At school, she occasionally faints on exertion. “It is hard to make friends at school as
I can’t run and join them in sports,” says Smriti, 10. Ahana’s lungs took a hit at the age of 11, after
she had spent six years in Delhi. Both have been diagnosed with asthma and use inhalers.
Asthma has jeopardised Saksham Sharma’s childhood too, with the 12-year old spending all day
playing video games or watching TV. “I hate it when other kids play outside and I have to sit at
home. At school, too, I’m excused from sports because of my bad lungs,” says Sharma. (1)


What causes pollution?
Officials said on Saturday that the source apportionment study' of various pollutants in
Ghaziabad would help determine the ultrafine particulate matters less than 2.5 microns
in size (PM2.5) released into the air from various sources, including 1) vehicles, 2)
diesel-run generator sets, 3) road dust, 4) construction work and 5) industries.
"Though Ghaziabad is considered as one of the most polluted cities in the country, till
date no study has been undertaken to pinpoint the exact sources of pollution. The board
has decided to undertake the study in order to determine the exact sources of pollution
so that necessary remedial steps can be taken."
Ghaziabad had been declared a critically polluted area' by the Central Pollution Control
Board in a survey conducted among 88 industrial clusters in the country in 2009. The
city had recorded a score of 87.37 on a scale of 100 in the comprehensive environmental
pollution index (CEPI) in the survey and was tagged as the most polluted city of NCR.

1. Vehicle emissions
Delhi has 8.8 million vehicles and more than 1500 are being added daily. Delhi's road
network, almost 30,000 km, can no longer hold the ever-growing vehicular population. It
has the most extensive road network in India --21% of its geographical area is just

At the same time, 90% of the vehicles have 3 or more seats empty. A vehicle is parked
more than 95% of the time that locks more than 150sq.feet of scarce land space. More
than 50% of the vehicle fleet is diesel vehicles. The average traffic speed is 10-15 kms.
per hour. This is a colossal waste of time, health, fuel, land, air and other resources.
Add to that Delhi has already invested heavily in metro rail infrastructure and that too is
running at super density crush load that is dangerously stressing both people’s health
and the safety of the infrastructure.

What can we do about it?

The first thing to understand is that there are no easy answers that anyone may be
looking for. The usual suspects such as redesigning roads only make the problem
worse and distract from the core objectives. (2) This calls for bold and transformational
thinking that must cure the problem at its roots.
a) “If you live in a city, you don’t need to own a car”. There is already excessive space
occupied by roads. Considering that road space is scarce and the high social costs,
priority must first be given to public transport. We need to rethink the anomaly of
“private cars” running on “public roads” (3). All private cars should be discontinued and
registered into certain numbers of taxis and the rest should be recycled. All diesel cars
should be scrapped. At the same time, there should be a moratorium of at least 10
years on registration of new vehicles.
b) All vehicle movements should be regulated by a Land Traffic Control similar to Air
Traffic Control for air traffic. Accordingly, every trip is pre-ordained and a turn-by-turn
navigation assistance ensures optimal allocation of scarce road space.
c) Horses for Courses: This is based on a path-breaking review of our usage and
attitude, environmental constraints and a comprehensive study of enabling
technologies. It metamorphoses the public-private transport categories. In turn, users

have a wider choice of the travel experience that they co-create and customize to
personal preferences. They avail of vastly superior travel experience at a given price
point in this model than at present. In a wholesome approach to our needs of a livable
society, users can choose to walk or cycle comfortable distances in a friendly
environment that is sequestrated of motorized traffic. Fast moving motor vehicles run
uninterrupted of slow moving traffic and move much faster than at present with a
combination of innovative traffic control measures and in-vehicle navigation sensors in
the new system. (4) Accordingly, the government should underline the neighborhood
areas and arterial roads and the hub and spoke mechanism for the interchange.
d) Government should support localization where most of the daily needs including
school and work can be done within the neighborhood area. This will reduce or
eliminate the need for long trips using fossil fuel powered vehicles.
(3) /

2. Fossil fuel based power plants – coal, natural gas and diesel

The above graph on diesel consumption spike in recent years is for Delhi. The diesel
guzzle in Ghaziabad is much worse as there are more than 6 hours of power cuts on an
average, which is backed up by diesel generators.

What can we do about it?
a) The outstanding opportunity is to use solar-wind power on every conceivable rooftop
space in urban and rural area in Uttar Pradesh to replace diesel based power back up
as well as have a steep power tariff slab to match demand for uninterrupted power
supply, especially as there is going to be greater shortfall in coal supply in coming
years. Diesel power at >Rs. 15 per unit is more than double the cost of solar-wind
power and is also a major cause of pollution.
b) A good policy reference is the Renewable Energy Sources Act from Germany which
has had tremendous success in scaling up solar and making it even more cost effective
than coal power. . Key elements are:

Differentiated, above market, long-term and regularly adjusted remuneration/feed-in
tariffs depending on renewable source and capacity, payment obligation for grid
operators for power fed into their grid,
Priority feed-in and grid connection rights,
Reallocation of system costs managed by the transmission system operators using a
sophisticated so-called EEG surcharge for electricity consumers,
Supplemented by a special equalization scheme for certain consumer groups.

The system has been supplemented with targets, growth corridors, breathing caps, a
wider market premium support system and special rules for auto-generators.
c) Delhi also has a net metering policy for reference but will need more teeth like the
German policy to be effective.
d) Krishna Apra Gardens, a residential society with 728 apartments out of which less
than 600 are occupied, there are 5 diesel generators of 500KVA each. In Ghaziabad
alone the total diesel power consumption is more than 600 Megawatt-hour per day
which can be replaced by solar-wind power once the new policy comes into effect.
In due course, we must phase out all fossil fuel use and transform our lifestyles to the
amount of renewable energy available. Over time, we should further transform our
lifestyles to follow the daylight hours and to live in harmony with nature.
3. Road dust

What can we do about it?
a) Road dust is raised due to absence of roadside greenery. This is addressed by the
solution for vehicle pollution. In this system, neighborhood roads carry only light and
slow traffic and can thus be made of recycled plastic. They are designed for ample
greenery and storm-water drainage so that there is no soil runoff and no dust
generated. The network of arterial roads similarly is made as a right of way with ample
greenery on both the sides.
4. Construction work

What can we do about it?
a) The entire Delhi NCR region has excessive construction already. There should be a
moratorium of 50 years on any new construction. At the same time, old and dilapidated
structures should be deconstructed in a safe and non-hazardous manner.

b) In entire NCR, developers are facing huge pile of inventory and facing liquidity crisis
for various projects. As a result, developers have shifted their focus on construction to
avoid delay in completion of existing projects besides launching new projects. Record
depreciating rupee resulted in hike in NRI buyers that is still in the market but
developers need domestic buyers back for their high end, mid and affordable segment
homes. (1)
c) The situation is so grim that even in a 10-year old apartment complex like Krishna
Apra Gardens in Indirapuram; more than 150 out of a total of 728 apartments are
unoccupied. There is either no taker for them at the rentals that are quoted or they are
parked as investments.
d) Government should take adequate measures to auction this unsold inventory that is
more than 12-months old from date of completion.
5) Industries

What can we do about it?
a) In Ghaziabad district, the SPM levels measured in industrial areas like Sahibabad and Meerut
Road have been found to be as high as 580 mg per cubic metre, against the accepted levels of
500 units. In residential areas of Ghaziabad, the RSPM levels were discovered to be 150 mg
per cubic metre, 50 units above the normal level. The Sahibabad industrial area has about 400
highly polluting units, comprising of 100 dyeing units, paper plants, meat processing
plants and other hazardous chemical unit. (1)
b) All polluting industries should be phased out and the land should be utilized for setting up
non-polluting cottage based industries, for farming, pasture and forests.
c) In due course, food will once again become the local currency and precious metals will be
used for external trade.

by Chandra Vikash IIT MBA IIM
Co-founder & CEO - Smart City & Village

IDG Construction Orchestra Pvt. Ltd.
A-13, 1st Floor , Highway tower, Sec-62, Noida- 201301

T: +91 72102 72102 M: +91 92685 73872