The rich cultural history of Delhi, its majestic architecture, its journey from Indraprastha of Mahabharata, dynasties of the Mughals, capital of India to our ‘Dilvaalon ki Dilli’, Delhi has a different place in our heart. However, the way Delhi is turning hazy, that place is dwindling in our heart. The problem of air pollution in Delhi(NCR) is threatening. According to WHO, every 9 out of 10 people inhale air containing high pollutants that are formed by outdoor and indoor pollution. From smog to smoke, the issue is the degrading health and climate which is leading to premature deaths due to respiratory diseases, heart diseases, stroke, lung cancer, etc.
Recently the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or EPCA; declared a public health emergency in New Delhi as pollution levels entered the ‘severe plus’ category. An Air Quality Index above 500 falls in ‘severe plus’ category. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) the overall score of AQI of New Delhi crossed the500 mark. These scores determine the 6 categories, i.e : good, satisfactory, moderate, poor, very poor and severe which are based on air quality.
There are several factors deteriorating air quality like local pollution produced by vehicular and industrial pollution and further by bursting of crackers on Deepavali. Stubble burning in the states of Haryana & Punjab has contributed about 45% of the pollution. Extremely adverse weather conditions are also a factor as northwesterly winds brought high quantities of smoke from Punjab & Haryana to Delhi (NCR). However, to improve this, the government took some measures like imposition of Environment Compensation Charge at toll plazas and the Odd-even Scheme, under which vehicles with odd last digit in the registration number will ply on odd days only and those with even last digit on even days. However, it is also important for us to know why Delhi is most affected. Behind this, there are metrological reasons (lack of winds) for example, in Delhi , the average wind speed rangesfrom1 to 3/s which is nearly 1/3rd of the average speeds in the summer months, so pollution levels are 40% to 80% higher in the winter months compared to the rest of the year. Secondly, there are geographical reasons also like the north-westerly winds that come into Delhi also transport
AQI was launched on 17th September 2014 in New Delhi under the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan by the Environment Minister Prakash Javedkar.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) emitted from large power plants and refineries that are situated upwind of Delhi.
All these facts do not focus only on environmental degradation but also on the health of the people. As per the Centre of Science and Environment, an average of8.5 out of 10,000 children die in India before turning the age of five and according to Greenpeace, 22 of the world’s 30 most populated cities are situated in India. However, the government has also established some boards and authorities to tackle these problems. Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority was constituted in January, 1986under section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, that takes all necessary measures for controlling vehicular pollution, including fuel standard monitors and coordinating action for traffic planning and management. Also, the Central Pollution Control Board of India which was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control) Act, 1974 and plans like Graded Response Action Plan under Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority have also been made that take some set of actions when the pollution level reaches a certain specified limit. Stopping construction work & entry of trucks, introducing odd-even scheme, etc. are some steps that have been taken under this plan.
Lately, in October, 2020, the President of India had signed an ordinance titled “Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Areas Ordinance, 2020”sthatwas brought up by Central government to tackle air pollution, where the SGI, Tushar Mehta appointed Retired Justice M.B. Lokur as the head of an 18 member commission. The violation of an order of this commission will lead to punishment of imprisonment of maximum 5 years or fine of maximum 1 crore or both and appeals to orders of this commission will go to NGT and in case of conflict between orders of this commission and the state government, the commission will prevail.
By concluding with the quote of Barry Commoner “Environmental pollution is an incurable disease, it can only be prevented”, I would like to say that air is a vital requirement of all living beings but today we have polluted this air so badly that it is becoming a threat to our lives. Air pollution has increased and the government has taken various initiatives to control the issue but now it is our duty to protect our life and create a pollution free environment at least on individual level.
student of Law from
Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi