The city’s first car-free day received a mixed reaction from environmental groups with Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) claiming that a huge drop was seen in the pollution level due to the drive even as Greenpeace India termed it as a “symbolic initiative”.
“CSE has found dramatic reduction in the exposure levels to particulate pollution on the stretch from Red Fort to India Gate during the car-free day. Pollution levels were 60 per cent lower than the levels observed in the same place, at the same time, yesterday,” CSE said in a release.
This observed reduction is further supported by the city-wide official ambient monitoring done by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, the release said, adding, an overall drop of 45 per cent in PM2.5 level was witnessed. The car-free initiative as well as the low-traffic load on the national holiday of Dussehra has helped lower the pollution levels and toxic exposure in the city, it said.
The initiative was organised on the stretch of road between the historic Red Fort and India Gate from 7 AM to 12 PM and saw the participation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, cabinet ministers, MLAs and other government officers.
“This initiative of the Delhi government has only helped to prove how the growing car numbers in Delhi aggravate toxic pollution; if these numbers are controlled, pollution can be lowered significantly,” CSE Executive Director (Research and Advocacy) Anumita Roychowdhury said.
Though this event has been planned for one road stretch a day every month to help build public awareness, this will need simultaneous action to restrain car usage on a daily basis for the real change, he said. Greenpeace India also carried out air-quality monitoring survey between Red Fort and India Gate, both on the day and the day before to assess the impact.
Monitoring was done for four hours each day. The pre- event day data showed that the pollution in Delhi was 428 g/m which is seven times higher than National Ambient Air Quality Standard and 16 times higher than the WHO standards, a Greenpeace statement said.
“While today’s data showed that the pollution in the city was 172 g/m which is three times higher than NAQS and seven times higher than WHO standards”, it said. “It should also be noted that the air quality monitoring station closest to the car-free zone was not even providing data on PM2.5 and PM10 making it difficult to understand the impact of such initiatives, thereby making it a symbolic initiative at best,” Greenpeace India said.
“Observing a car free day is a positive, if symbolic, initiative by the government; however, to really bring the air quality of Delhi within safe breathable standards, there need to be more comprehensive long-term solutions covering wider spaces and other pollution sectors such as industries and thermal power plants,” Greenpeace India campaigner Sunil Dahiya said in a statement.
“The survey also revealed that the the situation was not much different in other places in Delhi as five out of the ten Ambient Air Quality Stations installed to provide real time air quality data through NAQI, either provide three-month-old data or do not provide data on PM2.5 and PM10,” Dahiya said.
Particulate Matter (PM) is microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere which impacts climate and precipitation adversely affecting human health. Particulates which are coarse with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less are known as PM10 and fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less are PM2.5
“This clearly shows that National Air Quality Index (NAQI) in its current form is lacking in data accuracy, poor at dissemination of information and fails to provide adequate data or information on precautions for people to safeguard their health or recommend immediate actions to be taken by the government on bad air days to protect public health,” it said.
“More importantly, in the short term, the NAQI needs to be implemented in spirit before it can help the public protect themselves and prompt governments to take appropriate action on bad air days,” Dahiya added.
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