Air Pollution | Centre for Science and Environment

Air Pollution


Air Pollution

On World Environment Day, CSE warns Delhi’s air pollution and congestion crisis will worsen this decade if urgent action is not taken

  • Nearly every day this summer, both particulate matter and ozone levels have exceeded standards. These pollutants can snuff life out of cities
  • On top of that, carbon dioxide emissions from cars have added to the warming in and around the city
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Take a bus……

Bus, walk and cycle power India’s mobility. Yet rapid motorization is snuffing life out of cities. Can Delhi and other cities reinvent the dream of mobility to get out of this urban nightmare? This needs inventive thinking, action and confidence to break out of the arrogance of old ideas!

 

MMT: Metal assault

In what seemingly looks like a diplomatic offensive to protect toxic trade, the US based company, Afton Chemicals, producer of fuel and lubricant additives, has lobbied hard with the US government to mount pressure on the European regulators to prevent the proposed ban on its product, Manganese Tricarbonyl Methylcyclopentadienyl (MMT), a very harmful octane enhancer for petrol. Afton has introduced MMT to replace yet another harmful octane booster tetraethyl lead. Both are neurotoxic metals added to petrol to boost octane and are produced and sold by the same company.

Great convergence: Health, climate and vehicles

The recently-released annual global energy trend tracker, World Energy Outlook (WEO), 2007 of the International Energy Agency, has sounded the alert on India crossing the tipping point of per capita GDP of $3000. This threshold, once crossed, says WEO, vehicle ownership rates begin to escalate rapidly. The rolling stock of vehicles continuously locks up huge amount of energy and carbon. Increases toxic emissions in our cities. Suddenly, widely different concerns have converged around vehicles – public health, fuel splurge and climate impacts.

Winter and Diesel cars

by Anumita Roychowdhury, Right To Clean Air Campaign

Even without looking at the air pollution figures we know from the darkened sky-line that Delhi's air quality gains will be lost this winter. Air has begun to get heavy with dust, smoke and particles. Calm and cool weather is blocking the dispersal of smoke and pollutants. Low-hanging shroud impairs visibility, chokes lungs. Winter is a seasonal statement of the growing pollution crisis, a cyclical reminder of our inability to put into action the real solutions.

CLEAN AIR HAS VOTES TOO

It is easy to take credit for success but not ownership for the problem. It is even easier if a small whiff of success allows you to wish away the problem altogether. Not more determined to solve it. The Assembly polls are only a fortnight away in Delhi. All political parties have pitched their battle cry to a crescendo. But there is not even a whisper on future action on air pollution. The political perception is that air pollution is under control. Illogical but true -- some action can breed more inaction!

Fiscal Planners: The Class that Failed

Hit where it hurts most. Improving technology to cut emissions is expensive. So let it be. No need to take care of the extra cost -- even if it means compromising on clean air and public health. So obtuse and damaging! But so are our finance mandarins in the North block. They have culled all proposals for a fiscal strategy to meet tighter fuel and emissions standards. This dismissal of fiscal solution to technology transition blocks further negotiation to tighten the dismally weak technology roadmap of the Auto Fuel policy.

The Right to Inform

Our government rarely ever looks at the air quality data it spawns. Data demands action. Feigning ignorance relieves such stress. Except that the Indian Judiciary does not allow easy escapes. The Union government was caught off guard in the recent Supreme Court hearing in the on going public interest litigation on air pollution in Delhi. It is the chief justice bench that looked carefully at the latest air quality data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Devil's Engine

"We told you so!…" Facts prove us right and confirm our worst fears. Car registration data in Delhi point to an explosive trend in diesel passenger car sales -- a shattering 106 percent annual incremental growth rate since 1998-99 as against 12 percent for petrol cars. This murky detail is straight out of the computers of the State Transport Authority of Delhi. The city, working hard to douse toxic diesel particulates from its bus fleet with CNG, completely missed to notice the problem shifting around.

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