Cleaning Up Delhi air Article

Delhi government’s puny measures for a monstrous calamity


With the continuing deterioration in the air quality, the Delhi government went into a flurry of activities and announced some half-baked interim measures.

After the heightened alarm raised by the environment lobby and Delhi citizens on Sunday, November 6, 2016, claiming that the city has turned into a gas chamber, the Delhi government is putting out meager measures to help alleviate the situation (see alarming PM 2.5 situation in table 1).

Table 1: PM 2.5 values of Delhi between 2 to 7 November, 2016

Parameter Date Concentration Unit



PM 2.5
(Prescribed Standard – 60 µg/m3)

November 2, 2016 517.05 µg/m3
November 3, 2016 483.44 µg/m3
November 4, 2016 292.15 µg/m3
November 5, 2016 625.84 µg/m3
November 6, 2016 713.11 µg/m3
November 7, 2016 492.28 µg/m3
The average value of PM 2.5 is 521. 48 µg/m3
Source: Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), New Delhi

The measures announced by the government to control the pollution include shutting down of construction sites for the next five days, banning of diesel generators for the next ten days except in hospitals and emergencies, among other things.

The coal based Badarpur power plant will be closed for the next ten days. Schools will be shut down for the next three days and the government has also advised people to work from home as much as possible. All these schemes are effective from Monday, November 7, 2016.

The government is also considering bringing back the odd-even, car-rationing scheme back. It is also considering sprinkling of water on roads to settle dusts.

Former member secretary, Dr B Sengupta, opines that sprinkling water will be of no use as the killer pollutants such as PM 2.5 are very minute and can remain air-borne for longer durations.

According to Dr Ajit Tyagi, Former director general, India Meteorological Department, aircrafts can fly above haze layer, much in the same way as a firefighting craft would and sprinkle water. Tyagi claims that he has never seen an experiment like this anywhere in the world. He believes that the urgency in Delhi might necessitate such drastic action.

The effects he says would be localized, and short term. “In a way, this expensive solution despite being inconclusive would provide an interesting canvas for review for scientists”, Tyagi adds.

The prolonged duration of sustained anticyclonic conditions has led to the near 10 days of trauma for the city. Atmospheric scientists claim that when winds change and western disturbances sets in, it may take just a few hours to improve the situation.

Tyagi feels that along with the above measures, government officers could have been instructed to stagger office hours – to ease out the traffic and related peaks in air pollution.

The current pollution level in Delhi as per SAFAR is 622, at 7 pm, November 7, 2016, which is severe.

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