Consider Delhi, where the air quality has earned ominous labels like “Poison in the air” and “Breathing Poison.”
It’s a city that consistently ranks among the most polluted globally, grappling with a mixture of industrial and vehicular emissions intensified by seasonal agricultural fires.
You can determine the disastrous effect of the smog problem of Delhi through the following cases-
1-month-old Ayansh Tiwari, lying in a hospital bed with a nebulizer mask covering his tiny face, battling a persistent, hacking cough. The cause? The acrid air that engulfs New Delhi every year.
Step into the government-run Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya hospital, where a multitude of children fight respiratory distress during the peak of winter air pollution. Asthma and pneumonia cases surge in this metropolis of 30 million people.
Listen to Ayansh’s mother, Julie Tiwari, 26, as she laments, “Wherever you see, there is poisonous smog.” She describes her attempts to shield her child from the noxious air, expressing a deep sense of helplessness.
That’s not all! Look at the figures/data given in the next section.
(A) Horrendous Reports of the Smog Problem of Delhi
Last Thursday, something not-so-great happened in Delhi. The tiniest and most harmful particles, called PM2.5, went way too high.
These particles are so small they can slip into your bloodstream!
Can you believe it reached 390 micrograms in each cubic meter of air? That’s more than 25 times what the World Health Organization says is safe for a whole day.
See the reports-
|PM (Particulate Matter) Level||2.5|
|Comparison to WHO Daily Max||More than 25 times|
|Premature Deaths in 2019(Lancet)||1.67 million|
|Children’s Health Risk (UNICEF)||Higher risk of respiratory infections|
|Asthma in Delhi school Children||Almost 1 in 3 school children have asthma|
Even though the government tried, the air problem in the country is still hanging around. A smart medical journal called Lancet says air pollution caused around 1.67 million people to die too soon in 2019, especially in the most crowded country in the world.
Breathing in not-so-great air is bad, especially for kids.
A report from UNICEF says that children breathing in dirty air are more likely to get really sick with respiratory infections. And here’s a surprise from a journal called Lung India in 2021 – almost one out of every three school kids in Delhi has asthma and trouble breathing.
It’s a pretty big deal, huh? Have you ever wondered who the main culprit behind this is? It is Smog!
(B) What is Smog? How does it cause problems?
Before diving deeper into the situation, let’s briefly look at the concept of smog.
Smog is like a murky cloud that hangs in the air, making it look hazy and dirty. It’s a blend of two words: smoke and fog. Hence-
Smoke + Fog = Smog
Now, where does this smog come from? From the smoke of cars, factories, and maybe even some burning fields nearby. All of these things release tiny particles into the air, and when they mix with natural fog, you get smog.
You know those times when you take a deep breath and feel the crisp air?
Well, in Delhi, it’s a bit different. The air is filled with tiny particles that come from factories, cars, and even fires. These particles are so small they can sneak into your body and cause all sorts of problems.
So, the smog problem in Delhi isn’t just about what you see; it’s about what you’re breathing in. It’s like trying to enjoy a clear day, but this hazy smog gets in the way, making everything a bit blurry and not as nice.
And, unfortunately, it’s not just a minor inconvenience – it’s affecting the health of the people living there.
(C) Current Condition of Air Quality in Delhi
Following a slight enhancement in AQI over the course of two days last week, the air quality in Delhi has once more descended into the “severe” category this week. The national capital found itself blanketed in a dense layer of smog, causing reduced visibility.
Let’s look at the AQI (Air Quality Index) of some of the famous places in Delhi-
|Regions in Delhi NCR||Air Quality Index (AQI)|
|IGI Airport T3||426|
If you reside in Delhi NCR, you’ve likely experienced this challenging situation. Now, what contributes to Delhi’s pollution and smog? Let’s find out!
(D) Sources of Smog Problem of Delhi: Why is Delhi so polluted?
Some of the main sources of the smog problem in Delhi are described in the following table-
|Sources of Smog||Contribution to the pollution (%)||Description of Pollution in Delhi|
|Vehicle Emissions||67%||Exhaust (mainly carbon monoxide) from cars, buses, and other vehicles|
|Industrial Pollution||12%||Emissions from factories and industrial activities|
|Agricultural Practices (stubble burning)||30-35%||Burning of crop residues and seasonal agricultural fires|
|Construction Dust||10%||Particles released during construction and development|
|Waste Burning||2%||Open burning of municipal and household waste|
|Residential Heating||40%||Use of solid fuels and biomass for cooking and heating|
|Geographical Factors||–||Delhi’s geography contributes to air stagnation and pollution|
|Diwali Firecrackers||33-45%||Increased pollution during Diwali due to firecracker usage|
You must note that some of these factors are seasonal such as stubble burning and Diwali. Hence, their contribution to the smog problem in Delhi is seasonal too. However, some of them are evergreen contributors to Delhi’s pollution namely- Vehicle emissions and industrial pollution.
(D.1) Farm Fires (Stubble Burning) in Punjab & Haryana: Prime Contributor of Smog Problem of Delhi in November
You’ve got the scoop on Punjab – the farm fires have surged past 30,000 since September 15, 2023. In just two months, we’re talking 2,544 fresh stubble-burning incidents reported on Wednesday alone.
Hold your breath because Delhi’s air quality flipped back to “severe,” and neighboring Haryana isn’t faring much better, labeled as ‘very poor.’
Now, let’s rewind a bit. In the same September 15 to November 15 period of 2021 and 2022, Punjab had seen 67,020 and 45,464 stubble-burning episodes, respectively.
Lately, the crop residue burning trend is picking up speed. Just to give you a snapshot: 639 cases on November 9, six on November 10, 104 on November 11, 987 on November 12, 1,624 on November 13, and 1,776 on November 14.
It’s like a farm fire countdown, and the numbers are ticking up. Stay tuned for updates on what’s turning the air thick with smoke.
(D.2) Diwali and Pollution: A Blame Game Relationship
You’ve probably heard that many folks believe Diwali’s firecrackers are the main troublemakers behind Delhi’s November pollution. Is it entirely accurate? Well, to some extent, but here’s the catch – there are other pollution players in the game you can’t ignore.
When those firecrackers burst, they release not-so-friendly stuff like particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) into the air, cranking up pollution levels.
Experts say the levels of PM and SO2 from firecrackers have gone down in recent years, but they still add to Diwali’s air pollution mix.
Now, here’s a twist. This Sunday, Delhi hit its best air quality on Diwali day in eight years. Pretty good, right? But hold on, despite the rain doing its cleansing dance, things took a turn for the worse on Monday.
Late-night crackers, despite the ban, flipped the script, dragging the air quality back into the ‘poor’ category. It’s a reminder that even with progress, some habits die hard, and affect the air we all breathe.
(E) Actions Taken by the Government to Tackle the Smog Problem of Delhi
The Delhi government has introduced multiple measures to tackle the smog problem in the city. Some of the significant ones are described below-
|10 Point Action Plan||The Delhi Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, has introduced a 10-point action plan to control air pollution in the national capital.|
|Working From Home Policy||At least 50% of Delhi government staff would work from home, reducing the number of vehicles on the road and consequent emissions|
|Curbing Vehicular Pollution||Stricter emission standards for vehicles, promoting the use of electric vehicles, and encouraging the adoption of public transportation|
|Crackdown on Industrial Pollution||By imposing fines and penalties on industries not adhering to pollution control norms|
|Construction and Demolition Regulations||Stringent regulations have been enforced to control dust pollution from construction and demolition sites, including the use of dust control measures and enforcement of green building guidelines.|
|Promoting Cleaner Fuels||Measures have been taken to promote the use of cleaner fuels like LPG in hotels, restaurants, and households.|
|Green community focused on Diwali||By encouraging community celebrations instead of individual fireworks. This initiative aims to reduce air pollution caused by firecrackers|
|Distribution of Air Pollution Masks||These masks help reduce exposure to harmful pollutants and improve respiratory health.|
|Reinstatement of Even-Odd Policy||Restricts certain vehicles based on their license plate numbers on alternate days. This helps in reducing vehicular emissions and congestion on the roads|
The Delhi Environment Minister, Gopal Rai, has introduced a 10-point action plan to control air pollution in the national capital. In the next section, we will delve into a thorough explanation of it.
(F) 10-Point Action Plan: An Effective Solution for the Smog Problem in Delhi
As the air quality in the national capital continues to decline, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai has unveiled 10 action plans aimed at curbing air pollution. During a meeting led by the minister, strategies for addressing this year’s air pollution concerns were deliberated upon.
|Green War Room||Nine-member team led by Gopal Rai to monitor the actions of 20 government agencies in real time against pollution.|
|Anti-Dust Campaign||Regular inspections of construction sites by 586 teams. |
Over 6,800 sites were inspected; 276 violations were addressed with notices/challans.
|Green Delhi App||A platform for residents to register pollution-related complaints. |
2,009 complaints were received with a 90% resolution rate.
|Bio Decomposer||Free spraying of PUSA bio-decomposer across 3,200 acres to combat agricultural pollution.|
|Water Sprinklers||Deployment of 581 water sprinklers, 80 road sweeping machines, and 233 anti-smog guns at construction sites.|
|Industry Pollution||233 teams monitoring 1,600 industries to ensure compliance and prevent the use of unclean or unauthorized fuel.|
|PUC Certificates||Mandatory Pollution Under Control Certificates at filling stations. Over 20 lakh certificates issued; 68,500 challans issued|
|Hotspot Monitoring||Surveillance of 13 identified pollution hotspots with continuous operations of pollution control measures|
|Firecracker Ban||Complete ban on firecrackers since Sep 14, 2022, with some violations contributing to post-Diwali smog|
|GRAP III Action Plan||Imposed in response to ‘severe’ air quality – bans on construction, 24/7 water sprinkler operation to mitigate pollution.|
These plans encompass a range of measures, including the temporary halt of construction and demolition activities in various zones and the deployment of teams to monitor pollution levels.
Let’s delve into the details-
(F.1) Green War Room: Monitoring Pollution Combat
Gopal Rai, the Environmental Minister of Delhi, has orchestrated a robust strategy to combat escalating pollution levels. A nine-member Green War Room has been established to meticulously oversee the efforts of 20 government agencies. This dedicated team ensures real-time monitoring and daily assessment of actions taken against pollution.
(F.2) Anti-Dust Campaign: Keeping Construction in Check
In a proactive move, regular inspections of construction sites have been initiated. A network of 586 teams diligently enforces compliance, conducting daily visits. As of October 24, 6,866 sites underwent scrutiny, resulting in 276 violations.
Notices and challans were issued to 253 of these sites, illustrating a stringent approach to maintaining environmental standards.
(F.3) Green Delhi App: A Direct Line for Complaints
To facilitate direct citizen engagement, the Green Delhi app serves as a platform for residents to register pollution-related complaints. Since October 1, over 2,009 complaints have been received, with an impressive 90% resolution rate, showcasing the app’s effectiveness in addressing environmental concerns.
(F.4) Bio-Decomposer: Nature’s Ally Against Pollution
To combat pollution stemming from agriculture, the Delhi government initiated the free spraying of PUSA bio-decomposer across the farmlands. This proactive measure has covered nearly 3,200 acres, exemplifying a hands-on approach to tackle pollution at its source.
(F.5) Water Sprinklers and Pollution Control Fleet
A substantial fleet has been deployed to combat pollution on multiple fronts. The arsenal includes the following-
- 581 water sprinklers
- 80 mechanized road-sweeping machines
- 233 anti-smog guns at construction sites
- 150 vehicles equipped with anti-smog guns
- 9 sprinkling facilities mounted on high-rise buildings.
These measures collectively contribute to a comprehensive pollution control strategy.
(F.6) Industry Pollution Oversight
A vigilant approach extends to industrial areas, with 233 dedicated teams actively monitoring 1,600 industries. Regular inspections ensure adherence to environmental regulations, preventing the use of unclean or unauthorized fuel.
(F.7) PUC Certificates and Vehicle Regulation
Addressing vehicular emissions, the Delhi government mandated Pollution Under Control Certificates (PUC) at filling stations earlier this year. Over August and September, more than 20 lakh PUC certificates were issued, and strict enforcement resulted in approximately 68,500 challans for violations. Additionally, around 6,500 vehicles older than 10 years (diesel) and 15 years (petrol) were impounded, aligning with efforts to regulate aging vehicles contributing to pollution.
(F.8) Hotspot Special Monitoring: Focused Environmental Surveillance
Identified pollution hotspots in Delhi, numbering 13, receive special attention. Teams comprising District Magistrates (DM), Additional District Magistrates (ADM), and Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDM) conduct continuous monitoring. Their duties involve overseeing the seamless operation of water sprinklers, anti-smog guns, and other pollution control measures.
(F.9) Firecracker Ban and Diwali Impact
To curb air pollution, the Delhi government implemented a complete ban on firecrackers on September 14, 2022. As per Gopal Rai, the govt. launched a public awareness campaign- “Diye Jalao, Patakhe Nahi.” Delhi’s people supported this campaign.
However, Firecrackers were sold this Diwali but the Delhi govt. has restricted the bursting of firecrackers after 12 am. Sadly, people didn’t adhere to this rule which contributed to the smog problem in Delhi.
Despite that, Delhi had the cleanest Diwali in 2023 as compared to the past 7 years.
(F.10) GRAP (Graded Response Action Plan) III: Intensive Response to Severe Air Quality
As the air quality in Delhi plummeted to the ‘severe’ category, the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) III was activated. This comprehensive action plan entails a ban on all construction and demolition activities, except for essential services. Additionally, water sprinklers are in operation 24/7 to mitigate pollution.
These are some of the measures implemented by the Delhi government to tackle the smog problem. However, tackling air pollution is a collective effort, and it requires participation from all stakeholders, including citizens, industries, and other government bodies.
Note: Do you know, Delhi and Beijing both are severely affected by smog. Both have one reason in common i.e. pollution due to vehicular exhaust. Hence, both India and China are focussing on Electric Vehicles. But who is winning the race in EV dominance- India or China? Go through the article for detailed information.
(G) Final Words: Solution for the Smog Problem in Delhi
In wrapping up, the smog problem in Delhi persists, impacting your health and well-being. Yet, look at the government go!
Led by figures like Gopal Rai, they’ve thrown a whole arsenal at the issue. From the Green War Room’s real-time vigilance to actions like the Anti-Dust Campaign and deploying water sprinklers, they’re on it. Even with the firecracker ban and GRAP III during tough air quality times, they’re showing commitment.
But here’s the thing – your involvement, adopting eco-friendly practices, and staying aware, is crucial. It’s a joint effort for a cleaner, healthier Delhi.
Stay engaged in the smog battle!