CSE's exposure monitoringcompares pollution levels on car-free stretch in Dwarka and heavy-traffic areas of Dhaula Kuan to Patel Chowk. Finds exposure levels twice as high on heavy-traffic stretch than car-free stretch

November 23, 2015

This is supported by official ambient air quality monitoring that shows 21 per cent drop in overall PM2.5 levels across the city due to low trafficon Sunday

  • The second car free day proves once again that reducing traffic volumes can cut pollution. This should be the critical step in winter pollution management. 

  • While a car-free day every month can help build public awareness, the government must take steps to scale up alternatives and restrain car usage on a daily basis to show sustained results.

  • CSE suggests immediate scale up of integrated public transport system, safe walking and cycling options, limit legal parking and make parking more expensive, impose high taxes on cars and restrict their movement in congested parts. During this festive season,several neighbourhoods have pedestrianisedand yet remained vibrant.

New Delhi, November 22, 2015: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found a dramatic difference between the exposure levels to particulate pollution on the four-kilometer car-free stretch in Dwarka (sector 3-13 to sector 7-9) during the car-free event and the heavy-traffic stretch between Dhaula Kuan and Patel Chowk. The PM2.5 levels on car free stretch were half of that of the heavy traffic stretch between Dhaula Kuan to Patel Chowk.

This observed reduction is further supported by the city-wide official ambient monitoring done by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.The day being a Sunday with comparatively lower traffic, the average ambient PM2.5 level droppedby 21 per cent in the city. The car-free initiative as well as the low traffic load on a Sunday has helped lower the pollution levels and toxic exposure in the city. Even though the overall winter pollution is high in the city, the reduction in traffic volume has made a difference. 

“This initiative of the Delhi government has helped to prove once again that if vehicle numbers are controlled, pollution can be lowered significantly. This public awareness campaign must spur car restraintmeasures for winter pollution control and not keep this effort symbolic,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, Executive Director, CSE.

What has CSE done?
CSE carried out real-time exposure monitoring on the car free stretch in Dwarka in the afternoon that was earmarked for the half-day car-free event today. This monitoring is different from the ambient monitoring that the government does. Exposure monitoring captures the pollution on road and roadside that is influenced by the direct emissions from vehicleswithin our breathing zone. This is normally higher than the ambient level. Additionally, CSE carried out monitoring in yet another heavy-traffic stretch –Dhaula Kuan to Patel Chowk – in the evening after the car free event came to a close.

CSE exposure monitoring on the car free stretch has thrown up stunning results:
• Significant difference in pollution exposure level – as much as –50 per cent between car-free stretch and heavy-traffic stretch: During the car-free event,the PM2.5 level was 335microgramme per cubic metre(cum) in Dwarka. This was much lower than the levels observed in the heavy traffic stretch between Dhaula Kuan and Patel Chowk when PM2.5 levels were 645 microgramme per cum. Thus, PM2.5 level in the car-free stretch was half of that in heavy traffic stretch. Few cars were still running on the targeted stretch. 

• City-wide official ambient monitoring done by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee shows significant reduction in overall ambient pollution level: CSE has also analysed the DPCC’scity-wide ambient average PM2.5 level (comparable four hours in the afternoon) on November 21 and November 22 and found 21per cent drop in the city. On November 21 the average, PM2.5 level for the comparable hours was 226 microgramme per cum and today it had dropped to 177 microgramme per cum. November 22 being a Sunday there was a significant reduction in overall traffic volume in the city. Official monitoring also shows higher pollution in the morning hours than in the noon.

Leverage car free day to implement hard decisions for real change: 
While a public event like car free day once a month can help to build public awareness about the perils of car dependency and the need for car restraints, the real change is possible only if this is leveraged immediately to implement the urgent measures of providing alternative to cars and actively discouraging car usage on a daily basis. Globally cities are adopting parking policy for restraint, congestion and road pricing, capping of cars, restricting cars in congested and low emissions zones to fight pollution, congestion and energy guzzling. 

Need time bound action on the following:

  •  Issue air quality and health alerts during winter months

  •  Leverage car free day experience to discourage use of personal vehicles on severely polluted winter days

  • Immediately link and scale up metro-bus-autos/taxis-walk and cycle to connect door steps of people with their destinations. Provide safe and barrier-free walking and cycling infrastructure: Redesign roads and road network to give safe and priority infrastructure to walkers, cyclists and public transport users. 

  • Adopt parking policy and taxation measures to restrain car usage: Limitlegal parking areas across the city and demarcate them on the ground. Impose high penalty for illegal parking on public space. Use the revenue to build public transport. 

  • Prepare pollution emergency plan for the coming winter

 

For further information, please contact Anupam Srivastava, asrivastava@cseindia.org, 99100 93893