How Delhi is losing the pollution battle

Early on November 13, Bhure Lal, chairperson of Delhi’s Environment Pollution Authority, set off from his residence in Lutyen’s Delhi for a walk in Lodhi Gardens, his personal air pollution monitor clipped in place. The monitor read: 1196 micrograms per cubic metres. Mr. Lal was breathing 20 times the recommended safe standard for particulate matter over a 24-hour period.

Over the last two months, nine Delhi residents tracked the air quality over 24-hour periods on portable monitors given to them by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Each person’s reading far exceeded the recommended safe exposure to PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate matters, and also significantly exceeded the government’s official readings for that area for the same period, CSE revealed on Thursday afternoon.

According to the authors of the report, air quality was worst late in the night and early in the morning, as a result of a combination of the cool air and Delhi’s late-night truck traffic. Senior lawyer Harish Salve, who lives in Delhi’s Vasant Vihar area, was monitored on November 25-26. He recorded highest exposure between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. when the hourly average was about 408 micrograms per cubic metres, or seven times the safe standard.

People walking and cycling are highly exposed to pollution, CSE found, through the readings of Avikal Somvanshi, an asthma patient. People who go for morning walks are also likely to be affected. William Bissell, head of Fabindia and a resident of Hauz Khas Enclave, went for a morning walk at 7.30 a.m. to Jahanpanah Park in late November, and the hourly real-time average of PM 2.5 between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. in that area was found as 705.68 micrograms per cubic metres. The closest Delhi Pollution Control Committee background levels for the same time period was 318 micrograms per cubic metres.

Even by the government’s official air quality readings, over half of the days in October and November this year would be categorised as “severe” or “very poor” in air quality. Yet, CSE pointed out, there was no health advisory put out to citizens on action to be taken. Vehicular emission standards needed to be upgraded and the use of cars disincentivised, CSE recommended.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 5:09:32 PM |

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