Mark this World Environment Day with another inconvenient truth: Cutting down on truck pollution is a good step, but not enough for Delhi

Delhi is a pollution highway for cars. Total number of cars, SUVs and two-wheelers that enter Delhi DAILY is almost as high as total number of vehicles registered ANNUALLY in Delhi

Delhi’s pollution-congestion battle can get more difficult if it fails to contain motorisation within the city as well as the daily influx from outside

  • While Delhi takes action to stop trucks from polluting the city’s air, it is encouraging huge daily influx of personal vehicles 

  • Nearly equal number of vehicles go out of Delhi and contribute to pollution in NCR towns

  • All personal and passenger vehicles from outside account for 22 per cent of the total particulate load from the same modes, in and from outside the city. This is not only undercutting pollution control efforts in Delhi but also making enormous demand on land for parking

  • Instead of scaling up public transport connectivity in the NCR aggressively both the central and state governments are planning to turn city roads into highways and elevated corridors to induce more personal vehicle travel through Delhi 

  • Despite implementing a massive CNG programme for buses, autos and taxis, diesel related pollution is rising. While diesel fuel use is still high in Delhi, total number of diesel cars, taxis and SUVs that enter daily are also 2.5 times the diesel vehicles registered in Delhi during 2014-15

  • Growing motorisation and dieselisation is continuously adding to the toxic risk in Delhi where the National Cancer Registry Programme shows highest increase in lung cancer risk among all metro cities  

New Delhi, June 3, 2016: While the world gears up to mark another Environment Day on June 5, a new analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) suggests Delhi’s pollution troubles are far from over – despite the stringent action against trucks and the odd-and-even experiment. A real time cross-border traffic survey done by CSE has exposed the stunning fact that the number of personal and passenger vehicles that enter Delhi daily -- cars, SUVs, two-wheelers, taxis, buses (excluding trucks and light commercial vehicles) -- are close to the total number of vehicles that get registered in Delhi in a year! 

Says Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy and head of its sustainable urbanisation programme: “Delhi’s battle against pollution, congestion and energy guzzling can get increasingly more difficult if its own explosive motorisation gets further aggravated by the huge daily influx of vehicles from outside. An equal numbers of vehicles are going out of Delhi daily contributing to pollution in the NCR towns as well. This new analysis reconfirms that ineffective public policy on public transport connectivity is increasing dependence on personal vehicles, leading to enormous pollution and ill-health in Delhi-NCR.” 

She adds: “While so much effort is being made to bypass polluting trucks, both state and central governments are turning the city roads into highways and elevated high speed corridors for personal vehicles from the region. This is undercutting Delhi’s effort to control emissions and exposures in all sectors. These incoming vehicles contribute close to a quarter of the total particulate load from personal and passenger vehicles in the city.”

Key highlights of CSE’s analysis

Methodology: CSE had commissioned a survey to M/s VR Techniche Pvt Ltd to count real time traffic at nine key entry points into Delhi in June 2015. This was conducted with the help of 24x7 video recording of the traffic and counting of all categories of vehicles entering and exiting Delhi. These entry points include Kundli border on NH1 (KGT main); Tikri border on NH10; Rajokri on NH8; Badarpur border on NH2; Kalindi Kunj; two points at Ghazipur border on NH24; and two points at Shahdara border on NH-19.

In the first round of this action, CSE had analysed only the truck numbers. In this round, both personal and passenger modes were analysed. As personal vehicles do not pay toll there is no estimate of the share of total vehicles that enter from these nine locations. According to the Municipal Corporation these nine entry points are responsible for more than 70 per cent of all incoming truck traffic. Though CSE has considered a similar ratio for personal and passenger modes for extrapolating total entry from all the 124 entry points, this can be an underestimation. 

Total numbers of personal and passenger vehicles that enter Delhi daily are almost equal to the total number of vehicles that are registered annually in Delhi: The survey at nine entry points shows that around 3.07 lakh cars and 1.27 lakh two-wheelers enter Delhi daily. If this is taken as the 70 per cent of the total traffic from all 124 entry points, then the total number of cars, SUVs and two-wheelers from all entry points can be as much as 5.65 lakh. The Economic Survey of Delhi for the year 2014-15 shows 5.69 lakh total vehicles were registered that year in the city. Thus, the total number of vehicles that enter Delhi daily is almost equal to the number that is registered in the city. 

It may be noted that cars and SUVs also include the taxis that cannot always be distinguished in a survey. However, separately, available data shows that there are 1 lakh taxis registered in Delhi and NCR under the All India Tourist Taxi Permit. 

Only cars that enter Delhi daily are more than the total cars registered in the city in 2014-15: It is disturbing to know that more cars enter daily than those registered annually in Delhi. A vehicle-wise break-up shows that 55 per cent of all vehicles are cars, 11 per cent are SUVs and 27 per cent are two-wheelers. In the year 2014-15, about 1.65 lakh cars and SUVs were registered in Delhi. But daily, approximately 4 lakh enter Delhi from all the entry points – more than double what is registered in the city. Two-wheeler numbers are lower than that of cars. About 1.65 lakh two-wheelers enter Delhi from all entry points – this is 43 per cent of new two-wheelers registered in 2014-15 in the city. 

All personal and passenger vehicles entering Delhi contribute close to a quarter of particulate load from vehicles in the city: All personal and passenger modes coming from outside contribute as much as 22 per cent of the total particulate load from these modes, within and from outside the city. Among the incoming segments, cars are the biggest contributor to particulate load at 43 per cent, followed by SUVs at 23 per cent. Cars and SUVs together contribute 66 per cent of the particulate load from all incoming traffic (excluding trucks and light commercial vehicles). The two together also contribute 46 per cent of the nitrogen oxide load. 

Cars and SUVs coming to Delhi are also the biggest fuel guzzlers and the highest emitters of heat-trapping carbon dioxide: Carbon dioxide emission that traps heat is also a measure of fuel consumption by vehicles. The incoming cars have the highest per capita CO2 emissions – 3,031 gram/km (gm/km), followed by SUVs at 1,919 gm/km and two-wheelers at 988 gm/km. The incoming bus passengers have the smallest carbon footprint of 539 gm/km. Asks Roychowdhury: “With this trend, how will Delhi-NCR contribute towards India’s INDC commitment of reducing energy intensity by 35 per cent by 2030?” 

Even though buses are a mere 1 per cent of the incoming fleet, they carry 30 per cent of the commuters from NCR: There is a huge potential to expand this transport that has been ignored so far. It is extremely worrying that the trend in bus numbers and ridership is declining continuously. Bus numbers of Delhi Transport Corporation have sharply fallen from 6,077 in 2011-12 to 4,977 in 2014-15; the average daily ridership of DTC has dropped from 47 lakh per day in 2012-13 to 39 lakh per day in 2014-15 – a drop of 17 per cent. 

Incoming NCR traffic is undercutting the air quality and health benefits from local measures to reduce toxic air pollution, especially diesel pollution: Delhi has moved all its buses, autos and taxis to CNG and is trying to control dieselisation of cars. It has also reduced influx of trucks from outside. But this is getting negated by huge influx of personal and passenger vehicles especially those on diesel. Daily, the total number of diesel cars, taxis and SUVs that enter Delhi from NCR are 2.5 times the total registration of diesel segments in Delhi during 2014-15. Already, diesel related pollution is increasing in Delhi. Particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and ozone are high and increasing in Delhi’s air. On about 56 per cent of the days during April and May this year, the ozone levels have exceeded the safe standards. 

Toxic fumes from local and incoming vehicles contributing to growing cancer risk in Delhi: A CSE analysis of the National Cancer Registry Programme Report of 2012-14 shows incidence of cancers is highest in Delhi among the major Indian cities. The single most common is lung cancer that is also associated with exposure to polluted air, especially diesel pollution – in this case, Delhi is second only to Kolkata. Among all the fuels used in Delhi, diesel still remains the highest. To that is added the daily influx of diesel vehicles that are higher than the local fleet. Lung cancer incidents have increased by over 33.3 per cent since the middle of last decade in Delhi. 

State and Central governments are working to bypass trucks but are aggressively pushing highways and elevated arterial roads for personal vehicles through Delhi: All this is creating huge pressure on roads and urban land for parking. If we consider just the cars and SUVs that enter Delhi daily, they occupy a land area for parking that is equal to 320 Feroz Shah Kotla cricket stadiums! After saturating the existing road network (21 per cent of Delhi’s geographical area), the Delhi government plans to have more elevated corridors to facilitate vehicular movement and tap personal traffic from the NCR catchment. Out of the 10 elevated corridors planned, three will originate outside or at the border of Delhi. The remaining corridors are also all linked to national highways. Even the proposed elevated BRT corridors are planned with high speed motorised lanes. 

The Central government has planned three inter-state high speed corridors connecting Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan that can lead to massive vehicle influx. Delhi already faces the challenge of moving at least 2.8 crore trips a day by 2021. If more than 80 per cent of this is not on sustainable modes and more staggering numbers are added every day from NCR, Delhi can become unliveable in the not too distant future, say CSE researchers. 

Urgent action needed
Says Roychowdhury: “In this pollution and congestion battle, Delhi is running only to stand still. Both the Central and state government will have to recognise the implications of building road infrastructure that gives priority to personal vehicles.” 

• Prioritise scaling up of affordable, comfortable and reliable public transport services and build cycling and walking infrastructure to promote compact city design and reduce dependence on personal vehicles.

• Immediately notify Euro VI emissions standards to be implemented by 2020. 

• Discourage diesel vehicles with strong fiscal and regulatory measures and force all fuels and technologies to get cleaner. 

• Implement pollution source-wise action plan in entire Delhi-NCR in a time-bound manner


For any other details, please contact Souparno Banerjee, 9910864339 /