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Updated: May 12, 2010 14:17 IST

Delhiites may breathe easy during Games

Staff Reporter
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File picture of Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot Shera interacting with children. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.
The Hindu File picture of Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot Shera interacting with children. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.

Accelerating the pace of cleaning up the Capital's air ahead of the Commonwealth Games this October, the State Environment Department is looking at all aspects of controlling air pollution including setting up more air monitoring stations and advocating lesser vehicular congestion on city roads.

“We are working at providing better air quality and the Delhi Transport Department is also looking into the possibility of controlling traffic congestion by levying tax on motorist using congested areas during the sporting event,'' said State Environment Secretary Dharmendra on Monday while speaking at a discussion on “Clean air before the Commonwealth Games'' organised by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Environment experts participating in the discussion noted that air pollution levels are daunting and the city will need to work at a frenetic pace to ensure that it cleans up its air exactly the way Beijing did for the 2008 Olympics.

“Clearing the haze takes on a specific significance in the context of the Games as athletes have to perform to potential, especially in extreme endurance events and they need clean air. With every breath athletes typically take in 10 to 20 times as much air and thus pollutants,'' said Centre for Science and Environment's air pollution unit head Anumita Roychowdhury.

The CSE recently analysed the air quality data monitored by Central Pollution Control Board and found that the levels of tiny particles were very high and climbing.

“In fact, they have hit the pre-CNG days. Nitrogen oxide levels are rising in Delhi. This is strongly related to vehicular activity and needs stringent control. The number of days with ozone levels exceeding the standards is high in both summer and winter months. Studies in Delhi have shown that the pollution concentrations can invariably be 40-80 per cent higher during the winter months,'' said Ms. Roychowdhury.

The CSE has suggested that Delhi must be ready with an emergency plan for the Games and test it out before the event. “Reducing personal vehicle usage, upgrading public transport, walking and cycling, and leapfrogging vehicle technology are the key options left for us. Scale and stringency of action and enforcement are needed for effective impact and to meet clean air targets,'' said Ms. Roychowdhury.

“Already the report of the Commonwealth Games evaluation commission has stated that mobility within Delhi is difficult and congested and, therefore, a risk area. The Capital has already unleashed reforms to reduce traffic congestion in the city prior to the Games, but there are serious doubts whether enough is being done to provide any noticeable environmental benefits or relieve congestion,'' added Ms. Roychowdhury.

A CSE release said: “After relocating polluting industry and stalling further expansion of power generation inside Delhi, rapidly rising numbers of personal vehicles hinders clean air action in Delhi. Vehicles are one of the key pushers of pollution in Delhi.''

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