High peak traffic for long hours due to surge in vehicle numbers
Despite vehicles becoming the top polluter, action on transport remains the weakest
Find the complete analysis Click here
New Delhi, November 2, 2022: A CSE assessment of Diwali pollution levels in Delhi this year says that among the local pollution sources in the capital, vehicles were the main reason behind half of Delhi’s own contribution to PM2.5 concentration in the week of October 21-26. The substantial role of vehicles was evident in the day-long congestion that nearly erased the difference between peak and non-peak hours during that week. These indicative findings for the Diwali week of 2022 is also consistent with the findings of a similar analysis carried out for different phases of the previous year’s (2021) winter.
“A city with 1.4 crore registered vehicles (as per the VAHAN database) and an annual addition of five lakh vehicles a year (of which 97 per cent are personal vehicles, mainly two-wheelers and cars), has failed to build transportation strategies to scale for transformative changes. With more than 200 lakh population (estimate of World Population Prospect by the UN, 2018), the city is estimated to be generating at least 276 lakh daily travel trips. If most of these commuting trips have to be self-organised with personal vehicles, Delhi cannot meet the clean air target or the benchmarks for liveability,” says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, CSE.
CSE’s assessment includes the following:
Key highlights of the CSE assessment
Vehicles’ contribution to Delhi’s PM2.5 concentration was maximum during the week: Taken together with other sources (such as biomass and pollution from NCR and other districts plus Delhi’s own local sources), vehicles contributed nearly 17 per cent of the total PM2.5 concentration in the city. But if only Delhi’s local sources are considered, the transport sector topped the ranks (see Graph 1 in report), with vehicles contributing around half of the PM2.5 concentration from local sources. The indicative data shows that their daily share varied between 49.3 per cent to 53 per cent during that week.
This was followed by household pollution (residential) at 13 per cent, industries at 11 per cent, construction at 7 per cent, waste burning and the energy sector at 5 per cent each, and road dust and other sources at 4 per cent each. “This observation is consistent with the trends evaluated during the previous winter in Delhi,” says Vivek Chattopadhyay, principal programme manager with CSE’s Clean Air and Sustainable Mobility unit.
Combustion sources together have contributed more to PM2.5 concentration than dust sources: “The CSE report indicates that the overall share of all combustion sources – including vehicles, peripheral industries, the energy sector, waste burning and residential cooking -- have a higher share than the dust sources that include construction and road dust,” says Shambhavi Shukla, Programme Manager with CSE’s Clean Air and Sustainable Mobility unit. The report has used the DSS of IITM, which has provided the information on potential emission sources in Delhi, to reach at this conclusion.
Sizeable pollution is coming from outside Delhi, requiring action at a regional scale -- but vehicles remain a challenge: The DSS estimation shows that during this phase, NCR districts accounted for 32.77 per cent of the concentration; other districts contributed 25.84 per cent, while biomass burning was responsible for 9.52 per cent. Says Roychowdhury: “This once again underscores the fact that the action will have to be scaled up across the region. But among all sources, transport is a substantial contributor in Delhi.”
Choking congestion: CSE has further analysed the real time data from Google Maps for 15 major arterial roads to assess the hourly traffic speeds. The length of the roads selected are representative of the geographical spread. The travel time from origin to destination was noted for every hour from 8 AM to 9 PM for the period, which was later converted into speed in km/hour. The data was further analysed for traffic accumulation during peak and off-peak hours in the day. What the analysis shows:
Next steps: Need verifiable and measurable shift to public transport
Even though vehicles are the top polluters in Delhi, action to control their explosive numbers and usage have remained the slowest. Even the air emergency measures enforced for the very poor and severe categories of Air Quality Index (AQI) under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) do not include action, barring increased parking charges, to reduce vehicle numbers on road to control smog episodes. This is primarily because of inadequate public transport systems, poor quality services, lack of last mile connectivity and restraint measures.
Says Roychowdhury: “Even though action on transportation is underway, it is too little too late. Sustained and stringent action is needed for mobility transition. Otherwise, explosive vehicle numbers will negate the air quality gains of the leapfrog to Bharat Stage VI emissions standards.”
Augment and improve service quality of buses: Steps have been taken to add new buses to the existing fleet recently, but the numbers are still inadequate. Retirement of old buses also limit the net addition. Delhi, with 7,320 buses currently, has close to 37 buses per lakh of population against the recommended 60 buses per lakh population (as per the service level benchmark of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs). Time-bound augmentation of the bus fleet and modernisation of bus services and infrastructure is needed to improve the quality of passenger services across the city.
Ensure physical and fare integration of bus and metro systems: Though the process of physical integration of major metro stations with other modes of transport has started for seamless transfer, fare integration has not been possible yet and last mile connectivity with safe at-grade access for people needs immediate attention.
Scale up walking and cycling infrastructure to connect neighbourhoods and implement low emissions zones: The Delhi government plans to redesign 500 km of PWD roads by 2023; the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) will add 200 km of dedicated corridors for pedestrians and cyclists. But the implementation that is underway needs scale and speed. The city also needs extensive networks of walking and cycling infrastructure to connect different neighbourhoods for functional usage at local levels. Though there are proposals to pedestrianise more streets/commercial areas, the full implementation has been possible only in Ajmal Khan Road and Shahajanabad.
Immediately implement parking management area plans with parking caps and pricing in all municipal wards: Increasing parking rates during severely polluted days cannot work if the notified parking rules as a demand management measure and the Supreme Court directives to implement parking management area plans and parking pricing as per the rules are not implemented. This has not progressed beyond the three initial pilot schemes. Follow the parking rules under the Transit Oriented Development Policy within the influence zones of metro stations. Delhi needs congestion and pollution pricing and other restraint measures to control traffic volumes.
Meet all milestones and targets set for implementation of electrification of the new vehicle fleet: The target for 25 per cent fleet electrification by 2024 is a good step forward. This needs acceleration. Promote low emissions zones linked to electric vehicles, walking and cycling and public transport access.
For more information, interviews etc, please contact Sukanya Nair: email@example.com, 8816818864