Clueless against toxic air
City: 
A lack of planning has accompanied the battle against the dangerously-polluted Delhi air, even as politics prevents easy solutions

The air quality in the national capital continued to be in dangerous zone on Monday, with the PM2.5 level touching 509 in the afternoon, as authorities appeared cluessless on handling the emergency situation which has prevailed for more than a week on the run.

The Delhi government, which has faced the flak for failing to anticipate the problem that strikes every winter by adding buses to the Delhi Transport Corporation fleet or bringing in vehicles for vacuum cleaning roads, was unable to roll out the odd-even scheme of regulating private car use in the city as it failed to convince the green court about the effectiveness of the plan. The Supreme Court also stepped in slamming the Centre and the city government for their failure in tackling emergency like situation

The silver lining was the India Meteorological Department’s forecast of light rain for three days from Tuesday, which could help clear the smog. With authorities failing, all hopes are now on weather god's to offer some respite. One of the reasons for Delhi to turn into a toxic air like lock is absence of wind. The air is standstill leading to accumulation of toxic gases.

Review petition

As part of its emergency plan to deal with the crisis the Delhi government's odd-even scheme was not rolled out on November 13 after the green court questioned exemption granted to women drivers and two wheelers. The Delhi government has now moved the National Green Tribunal seeking modification of its November 11 order refusing to exempt women and two wheelers from the odd-even car rationing scheme to tackle pollution.

The application, filed before a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, sought exemption of women drivers from the scheme, saying it may affect the safety and security of women. It sought that the exemptions be allowed for one year till the government procured 2,000 buses.

The green court last week had ordered number of steps including stopping truck movement in the capital and banning construction and industrial activities. But the gravity of the situation is that nothing has proved affective.

The city schools, which were shut down opened adding to the vehicular movement. Several flights and trains were delayed because of poor visibility. The air quality has remained in danger zone for over a week now turning the city into gas chamber.

The Supreme Court appointed panel on environment has suggested that movement of heavy vehicles running on diesel should be stopped immediately and proposed that stickers reflecting age and fuel of vehicles should be used to segregate polluting traffic.

Politics

Despite knowing well that stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab has been one of the major contributors of air pollution in the entire north Indian region, no effort has been made to provide alternative to farmers.

Politics has ensured that there is no consensus as Delhi, Punjab and Haryana are ruled by three political parties. Haryana has BJP government, Punjab is ruled by the Congress and Delhi has Aam Aadmi Party at the helm of affairs.

The three have been passing the buck at each other. After much hue and cry, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has offered to meet his Delhi counterpart to discuss the issue. But the chief ministers of the three states haven't sat across the table even once to formulate a strategy.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi commented on the Delhi pollution by saying "seene mein jalan aankhon mein toofan sa kyun hai, is sheher mein har shaqs pareshan sa kyun hai (pain in chest and turmoil in the eyes, I wonder why everyone is tense in the city).

gautam.datt@mydigitalfc.com

Columnist: 
Gautam Datt