CSE presents agenda for action to fight air pollution and protect the health of 'Aam Aadmi'

  • CSE releases stunning data from its monitoring of pollution exposure of the aam admi, the common citizens of Delhi while travelling by mass modes -- buses, autos, metro and walk. They breathe unacceptable levels of toxic air  

  • Delhi cannot afford to face another severely polluted winter as this one. CSE analysis shows that the number of days recording levels classified as “severe” in the official air quality index went up to 65 per cent in December 

  • Between October and February there were 12 smog episode days when severe levels persisted for three consecutive days… This demands pollution emergency measures.  

  • CSE presents action agenda for the new government and demands immediate implementation of priority measures to protect the health of ‘aam admi’  

New Delhi, February 20, 2015: Shunned as one of the world’s most polluted cities, Delhi is literally gasping for breath, with air pollution levels that seem to be skyrocketing without any restraint. And the ‘aam aadmi’ – common man – is the one facing the music: a latest analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) indicates exactly what kind of pollution levels is a common citizen exposed to while travelling in mass modes such as buses, the metro, autos or while walking.

Releasing the results of the analysis at a press conference here today, CSE director general Sunita Narain said: “As the overall air quality of Delhi worsens, our exposure to toxic air increases several-fold. The winter season is drawing to a close – but we must understand that Delhi cannot afford to face another severely polluted winter such as this one. The new Aam Aadmi Party government has taken on the reigns in Delhi; we expect it to now lay down the priority action to control air pollution and protect public health in the city.” 

The study and its results

In February 2015, CSE monitored air pollution levels in buses, autos, the metro, and while walking -- mainly to assess the amount of pollution that average citizens are exposed to on a daily basis while travelling in the city. Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy and head of its Right to Clean Air campaign, said: “This helped us understand how much pollution people breathe on a daily basis in Delhi while travelling. Our data is quite shocking – we have found that daily personal exposure to toxic air is significantly higher than the background ambient air pollution that is monitored by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). This is a serious risk to public health.” 

The dust track aerosol monitor used by CSE measures both mass and size fraction of particulate matter. A real time monitoring was carried out in different modes of mass transportation during morning and evening traffic peak hours in the first two weeks of February. Their average exposure was compared with the background ambient levels monitored by the DPCC at the nearest official monitoring station. 

Says Roychowdhury: “It is ironical that our public transport users, the majority in the city, who are part of the solution to the dangerous air pollution problem, themselves are vulnerable and victims of this highly toxic risk. This risk can be reduced only if a stringent clean air action plan is implemented in a time-bound manner.” 

The CSE analysis shows:

  • Exposure in all transport modes is very high: The average levels recorded are 2-4 times higher than the background levels reported by DPCC.

  • Open modes like autorickshaws, walking and cycling have the highest exposure.  

  • During off-peak hours, all modes show lower levels: Difference between peak and off-peak was as follows -- autos 1.3 times higher; walking 1.5 times higher; and buses 2.5 times higher.

  • Underground metro with sealed environment shows lower levels of about 209 microgramme per cubic metre. The overhead metro had levels of 330 microgramme per cu m.

  • Pollution levels peak near junctions and in traffic jams: Pollution levels increase when traffic is stationary at junctions and in traffic jams. In a traffic jam on a stretch close to Paharganj, levels peaked at 1,170 microgramme per cu m. At a traffic jam near Govindpuri Metro Station, the peak level was 725 microgramme per cu m.

  • Proximity to diesel trucks lead to extremely high exposure: A cycle rickshaw ride on NH 24 in close proximity to truck traffic recorded a range of 651 to 2,000 microgramme per cu m.

  • Cars do not help. Monitoring inside the car was carried out during off-peak hours -- the average levels were found to be double the ambient levels. 

  • The traffic police is breathing unacceptably high levels: Monitoring carried out at the ITO crossing showed peak exposure at 8 times the ambient level. 

Delhi cannot face another winter as severely polluted as this…

  • CSE applied the National Air Quality Index announced by the ministry of environment and forests to the PM2.5 levels this winter – October 2014-February 2015. The results showed:

  • Number of days with severe levels has remained consistently high all through. In December, 65 per cent of the days were in severe category; in January, it was about 47 per cent. 

  • Several smog episodes: Globally, a smog episode is defined as three consecutive days when the pollution levels are elevated and remain in the worst category of the Air Quality Index. When CSE applied the criteria to the city’s pollution levels, it found there were at least 12 smog episodes this winter! This is a critical situation -- in other countries, if cities are afflicted in a similar manner, immediate steps are taken to reduce car numbers, shut industrial units, and close down schools.

So what should the new AAP government focus on?

CSE released a priority action plan that includes pollution emergency action for smog episodes, and short- and medium-term measures for more lasting and durable change to meet clean air standards in a time-bound manner:

 Implement the Air Quality Index with health advisories and pollution emergency measures. 

• Leapfrog emissions standards to Euro V in 2017, and Euro VI in 2020. Nation-wide Euro IV should be in place by 2015. 

• Control dieselisation with tax measures. Diesel has been branded as class I carcinogen by WHO. Need fiscal measures to keep clean fuels like CNG competitive vis-a-vis diesel.

• Improve and scale up public transport and last mile connectivity: Bring all the 11,000 buses within a year. Ensure reliable and frequent services, GPS enabled public information system; multi-modal integration for metro and bus and last mile connectivity.

  • Delhi needs to meet the target of 11,000 buses

  • DTC has 4879 buses. Order for 1380 more buses has been placed. 

  • 9 clusters have 1371 buses. To buy 1175 more buses 

  • Earmark parking space for new buses. Lack of space has slowed down bus purchase

• Implement the proposed plan for mass transport network including Metro, BRT, LRT as proposed in the revised Delhi Master Plan

• Implement non-motorised network plan for time-bound implementation: Mandate people and cycling friendly street design guidelines and standards for all roads. These should be made mandatory for approval of road network projects in Delhi. Protect walkways and cycle tracks from encroachment and ensure safe crossing. Implement the provision of Motor Vehicle Act 1988 that bars vehicles from being parked on pavements.  

• Restrain growth of cars with parking restraints and taxes: Eliminate free parking. Introduce effectively high and variable parking charges; introduce residential parking permits with fees. Ban parking on footpaths under the provision of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988. Implement parking management area plans to plan and implement legal parking, ban and penalise illegal parking and rationalise on-street and off-street parking; Prohibit parking in green areas and in neighbourhood parks.

• Need stringent measures for on-road and older vehicles. 

  • Tighten PUC testing method and compliance: Grossly polluting vehicles can occur at any age group or vintage and these will have to be weeded out with a good inspection programme and smoky vehicle checks. 

  • Deploy more advanced in-use monitoring strategies. Integrate on-board diagnostic system for in-use inspection; introduce remote sensing technology for screening on-road vehicles among others. 

  • Make PUC certificate conditional requirement for obtaining annual insurance for vehicles. 

  • Need road worthiness tests for private vehicles. 

  • Divert non-destined trucks and check overloading. 

  • Stringent action on visibly polluting vehicles: Smoky vehicle inspection based on spot check and on-road surveillance, high penalty and instant removal from road can make a difference inside the city as well as along the borders. 

  • For scrappage of old vehicles implement cleaner emissions standards for new vehicles that will replace older vehicles. Formal scrappage policy must ensure infrastructure to scrap old vehicles and at least 95 per cent of scrapped material is recycled. Implement end-of-pipe regulations for vehicle manufacturers to ensure more than 90 per cent of the material used in cars are recyclable. 

  • Implement colour coding of old vehicles of pre-Euro I, Euro I and Euro II vintage and restrict their plying during smog episodes. 

  • Impose higher taxes on older vehicles of Euro I and Euro II vintage. 

• Implement seamless public transport system in the NCR: Implement NCR-wide seamless bus system and para transit system and remove tolls and tax barriers across borders for public transport within a year under reciprocal agreement; Implement plan for improved rail network

• Stop farm fires in the NCR: Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region. Need stringent enforcement under the Air Act 1980 to ban farm fires. This needs be enabled with incentive and subsidy for innovative farming methods that allow mixing of the straw with the soil to act as fertilizer and avoid stubble burning; Promote alternative uses of paddy straw for power generation.

• Set up urban transport fund by tapping the revenue sources. 

 Need natural gas for power plants and stringent action on coal based power plants: Delhi has four power plants - Badarpur, Indraprastha, Pragati and Rajghat. Badarpur and Rajghat are Coal based plants while IP and Pragati are Gas based plants. Substantial improvement is possible if coal based power plants are converted to natural gas. But gas is not available. Ensure sustained and reliable gas supply.  Also tighten particulate matter standards for power plants. Introduce norms for NOx and Sox. 

• Innovate and leapfrog air quality monitoring: Exposure monitoring based on new emerging low cost but advanced sensor-based monitoring equipments can become a game changer in air quality monitoring globally. Needed to bridge the gap in data availability to citizens and assess personal exposure.

• Need inter-state agreement to control and stop paddy straw and wheat straw burning after harvesting. Make paddy straw burning an offence in the region. Total paddy stubble burning area in ten districts of Haryana and Punjab is about 208.34 thousand hectares or 20.29 % of the total paddy area in the districts. Need stringent enforcement under the Air Act 1980 to ban farm fires. This needs be enabled with incentive and subsidy for innovative farming methods 

Promote alternative uses of paddy straw for power generation. 

• Need NCR-wide plan: Expand real-time air quality monitoring in the NCR and implement daily real-time data reporting. 


For any queries, please contact Vrinda Nagar, CSE Media Resource Centre, at 9654106253/ vrinda.nagar@cseindia.org




Media Clippings

‘Pollution at unacceptable levels’

Asian Age, Delhi|February 21, 2015

Small scale factories still need to obtain pollution, municipality permits in Delhi

Business Standard | Delhi

February 21, 2015

Government to ask Delhi to prepare master plan to check pollution

DNA/Mumbai|February 20, 2015

CSE releases counter-pollution strategy for Delhi governmnet

Economic Times

Delhi | February 21, 2015

Delhi’s aam aadmi breathes in highly toxic air, says CSE report

The Hindu | Delhi | February 21, 2015

Delhi gasping: Trouble in the air for those walking, cycling

Hindustan Times | Delhi

February 21, 2015

Green panel’s order on old vehicles lost in time

Hindustan Times | Delhi|February 24, 2015

Those travelling by public transport most at risk of air pollution: CSE

Indian Express | Delhi

February 21, 2015

AAP takes note of study, will meet experts next week

Indian Express, Delhi

February 21, 2015

Directive may delay DPCC action

Indian Express, Delhi

February 21, 2015

More cities are falling into the pincer grip of multi-pollutant crisis with serious public health consequences

Mint | Delhi | February 24, 2015

Experts debate advisory during green emergency

Times of India | Delhi | February 21, 2015

CSE releases counter-pollution strategy for Delhi government

Times of India | Delhi | February 21, 2015

Road users breathe dirtier air

Times of India | Delhi | February 21, 2015

Delhi small-scale units still need pollution, municipality permits

Business Standard | Delhi February 21. 2015

Air Pollution Cutting 660 M Lives Short By 3 Yrs: Report

Economic Times | Delhi | February 21. 2015

Govts dither as Delhi chokes on its won air

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 20. 2015

Industrial zone vacant as factories shift to villages to escape anti-pollution norms

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 20. 2015

Times more than safe limit

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 20. 2015

Trouble in the air for those walking, cycling

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 21. 2015

Delhiites find ways to stay safe as pollution gets unbearable

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 22. 2015

Capital's unbreathable air. No clean-up till we own up

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 23. 2015

Green panel's order on old vehicles lost in time

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 24. 2015

Toxic air puts brakes on auto, bus drivers

Hindustan Times | Delhi | February 26. 2015

Nav Bharat Times | Delhi | February 20. 2015

Sahara | Delhi | February 21. 2015

Environmentalists lay out roadmap for AAP government

Daijiworld|February 21, 2015