New Delhi, May 15, 2010: Delhi is integrating clean air benchmarks with the planning for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, for city-wide public health benefits: this was the consensus arrived at here today at a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Sheila Dikshit. The participants at the meeting included all the key implementing and regulatory agencies for the Games.
This meeting follows the recent release of an analysis of air pollution and public health concerns vis-a-vis the Games by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In its analysis, CSE had said that Delhi needs a combination of long-lasting reforms as well as a contingent plan to clean up its air before the Games.
CSE, in fact, has identified seven key steps that would need to be taken to make the city’s air Games-friendly.
1. Ensure procurement of buses and reorganisation of public transport systems
2. Advance BRT corridors, and the cycle and pedestrian ways
3. Advance work on the bypass so that the truck traffic does not enter the city
4. Take urgent steps for imposing congestion tax for controlling truck traffic within the city and increased parking charges for private cars so that there is restriction on travel
5. Take steps to restrict private vehicle movement between cities – use of public transport to be encouraged
6. Advance steps to control pollution from thermal power and industries
7. Restrict private transport during the Games and take other steps to control pollution as part of contingency planning
Delhi has taken some key steps already: it has relocated its polluting industries and stalled further expansion of thermal power generation inside the capital. It has also proposed to stop construction activities before the Games. Improved emissions standards of vehicles, implemented largest ever CNG programme and removed old commercial vehicles. Now, the rapidly increasing motorized personal vehicle fleet remains the main challenge.
At today’s meeting, the high-powered group identified the primary thrust areas for time-bound improvement. It has proposed to speed up action on public transport strategies to meet the increased demand during the Games: service hours and frequency of metro and buses will be increased on the key routes to enable effective shift from personal vehicles. Pedestrian and bicycle paths will be scaled up and integrated with the metro and bus transports. There will be zero tolerance for polluting and smoky vehicles. Public transport linkages with the NCR region will be strengthened to reduce the traffic load from NCR. There will be stricter control over transit traffic.
The concerned agencies will now work further on the strategies to reduce the traffic load on the roads to ensure clean air. The action plan will now be reviewed periodically for effective implementation.
According to Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE’s Right to Clean Air campaign, “The green Games present an enormous opportunity to clean up the air in Delhi for public health protection and enlist public support for strong action.”