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A four-point action plan to improve Delhi’s air

  • IASbaba
  • December 18, 2020
  • 0
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ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2,3:

  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

A four-point action plan to improve Delhi’s air

Context:  The deteriorating air quality in Delhi has led the Centre to set up the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas. 

Every year, as the air quality reaches dangerous proportions, emergency measures are taken to ease the situation. However, in the absence of a long-term strategy, the problem recurs every winter. 

The causes of poor air in the National Capital Region (NCR)

  • Stubble-burning in neighbouring states
  • Construction dust
  • Industrial pollution
  • Localised bonfires to meet the heating needs of the poor 
  • Emissions from motor vehicles (on-road vehicular exhaust emissions account for nine per cent to 38% of particulate matter (PM2.5) in the atmosphere)

A sustainable plan to reduce emissions from the transport sector requires a comprehensive and multi-year effort. A four-pronged approach could help. 

  1. Deployment of Clean Technologies
  • Electric mobility is a rapidly-growing choice, globally. 
  • India is focused on this sector, having formulated a National Electric Mobility Mission Plan and has instituted programmes that offer financial incentives for electric buses and other vehicles. 
  • However, effective deployment requires a comprehensive and actionable road map involving all stakeholders that must cover supply- and demand-side interventions like mandating purchase of Electric Vehicles (EVs), establishing charging and swapping stations, awareness campaigns, setting standards and incentives to vehicle and component manufacturers. 
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles (HFCs), though not yet commercialised, are said to be a fitting complement to EVs, especially to cover long distances of freight and passenger commute.
  1. Adopting shared and non-motorised transport.
  • The key to effecting a modal shift is to persuade people to move from personal motor vehicles to either shared modes, like buses, metro rail and shared taxis or to non-motorised modes, like cycling and walking.
  • Unfortunately, the quality of India’s public transport systems – especially our city buses – are primarily designed for affordability, not quality thus discouraging private vehicle commuters from making a shift.
  • Affluent commuters seek high-quality options, featuring door-to-door travel, greater comfort, less crowding, and tracking and smart ticketing choices. 
  • They are willing to pay higher fares for such services. To earn their buy-in, public transport should incorporate a variety of premium services that ensure quality even if it means steeper ticket prices.
  • Meanwhile, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is an emerging concept in some European cities that allows transportation services to be available on demand and as per need, through a mobile app. 
  • Identical to the app-based taxi services in India, MaaS cuts across modes of transport to offer multi-modal trip options based on willingness to pay, time availability and other parameters. In India, MaaS can revolutionise daily commutes and offer the much-needed solution for a modal shift.
  • To promote non-motorised modes, NCR must invest in well-planned and safer infrastructure for cycling and walking
  1. Improving traffic flow
  • If traffic congestion is reduced and vehicles move seamlessly, then vehicular pollution will diminish. This is because moving vehicles will disperse the emissions effectively, ensuring they don’t get locked up in one location.
  • Staggering peak time travel could be a solution to distribute the movement of traffic over a longer period of the day. Offices and commercial establishments can adopt staggered and flexible timings for employees.
  1. Reducing travel demand
  • Improving online delivery of public services can help reduce the average number of trips people make. Policies and supporting infrastructure that allow citizens to work from home and shop online will help this effort. 
  • Likewise, mixed land-use planning could reduce trip lengths. Newly-developing areas should co-locate offices, commercial and residential addresses to minimise long commutes.

Conclusion

  • These actions to reduce vehicular pollution could begin the process of improving NCR’s air quality. However, the need of the hour is a focused, comprehensive, systematic and multi-year effort across sectors. 
  • Today, Delhi looks up to the commission to develop a scientific plan with a long-term vision, be adequately resourced and empowered to implement it. This holds out a glimmer of hope that people can breathe easy in future winter seasons.

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