India’s capital, Delhi is experiencing air pollution in the worst form. Delhi has always been amongst the most polluted cities in the world but at present it is raking as “the most polluted city in the world”.
Schools are shutting down and a lot of schools have banned outdoor playtime for children. Many people are falling ill which is why authorities are contemplating emergency measures in the city.
The level of air pollution is ten times more than the recommended safe limit and everyone is at health risk. People are considering buying air purifiers, getting more plants, etc.
One of the reasons for this increased level of pollution is the burning of crops thousands of farmers in the northern parts of the country.
Here are some personal solutions for this severe problem: (what you can do for yourself+family)
- Air Purifiers: (bedroom, childrens room, office cabin)
- For a room that is around 600 sq ft: Sharp. You might need to buy a new HEPA filter in a month or two. These are typically expensive, and are not reusable. Buy with a prefilter, which will ensure that the HEPA filter lasts longer.
- Wear pollution masks when outdoors
- High end: Vogmask. Get the one with double valve, so it’s easier to breathe. They’re comfortable. Won’t last very long, so you’ll need to buy often. Filters cannot be replaced.
- Cheaper options: N95 masks (they’re not very comfortable). Same site has other options too.
- Change your timings: If possible, change the time when you are outdoors. Kids should not be playing outside at any time. No morning walks, no major physical exercise. Pollution is particularly high early in the mornings, late in the evenings. Check data: http://api.indiaspend.org/dashboard/ before you step out. IMPORTANT: change “avg hrs” setting to 1 hour. the 24 hour data is useless.
- Plants that help (source), (watch this video):
- Car air purifiers: I don’t know what’s effective here, but there’s one here, from the same people selling vogmask in India: http://www.nirvanabeing.com/product-category/air-purifier/car-air-purifier/ Again: filters will have to be bought and changed monthly, is my guess.
How companies can contribute:
- Encourage car-pooling
- Offer office buses, so employees can use those instead of personal vehicles.
- Offer office buses from nodal points at specific timings: metro stations, bus stops
- Allow work from home at least one day a week
- Opt for circular economy and green energy. Money spent on this can be counted against CSR. Can become genuine marketing agenda for some.
- Encourage work from home (specially for IT company employees – they can do it). Employees should come to office only if needed.
Short term solutions
- Discourage bursting fire-crackers in Delhi:
- Run educational campaigns against firecrackers in schools
Fine people for bursting fire crackers in public spaces such as roads
Implement the 10pm rule seriously. Zero crackers post 10pm.
- Run educational campaign specifically targeted at Diwali
- Promote people to organize Light-and-Sound shows (also called Projection Mapping) so that they can enjoy the festival without bursting crackers.
- Demarcate particular areas in colonies where people will be allowed to burst crackers collectively.
- Create a city-wide real-time pollution monitoring system to provide accurate pollution data
- Real-time monitoring systems that monitor and archive pollution data are essential for identifying sources, coming up with strategies and evaluating progress. Increase number of monitoring nodes (currently, just six)
- Broadcast pollution numbers over mass-media with higher frequency (just like traffic status). Add impactful (scientifically correct) messaging that brings home the point to more people.
- Prevent burning of wood, leaves and other waste:
- Build shelters for the homeless, especially on the banks of the Yamuna and near ISBT. They burn wood to keep warm at night.
- Fines on people burning leaves, garbage and wood (for disposal)
- Avoid large scale centralised waste incinerator projects like the ones that have already failed in Bangalore and are still being pursued
- Ensure no fires are lit on the garbage dump (hill; next to Bhalswa village) on GT Karnal Road, New Ashok Nagar as well.
- Addressing pollution from vehicles outside Delhi:
- Reduce the time during which trucks and buses are allowed to enter Delhi. (currently – and correct me if I’m wrong – it’s 9 pm to 5 am daily; make it 1 am to 5 am)
- No interstate buses from outside Delhi allowed in, if they don’t meet the pollution norms applicable on Delhi vehicles. (State Transport buses from Haryana, Punjab and HP are heavily polluting)
- Beef up personnel deployment of inspection of vehicles entering Delhi (they are corrupt and this is not working)
- Beef up pollution checks for all vehicles irrespective.
- Pollution cess on all vehicles to be used for reduction programmes
- Reducing vehicular pollution from Delhi vehicles
- Implement pollution norms for ‘Goods carriers’, which are used to transport goods within Delhi.
- Ensure that all government vehicles conform to emission norms and carry PUC certificates.
- Restrict the registration of new vehicles by way of lottery system (this combined with fitness certificate for old vehicles should reduce the current no. of vehicles on the road, and push everyone towards public transport).
- Vehicles (including scooters) which are older than 15 years impounded, fines imposed
- Start a helpline, where one could report vehicles with irregular emission
- Strictly enforce lane-driving. That will drive down pollution and reduce jams
- Large fines for vehicles visibly spewing smoke. Impound vehicles of repeat offenders.
- Increase ‘cost of ownership’ of cars. (London, Paris etc do this successfully. Although they also have a relatively clean public transport system).
- Thorough audit of vehicles owned by publicly funded institutions or PSUs – those polluting gas cylinder or MCD trucks shouldn’t be allowed without clearing pollution checks. Never see a policeman stop these kind of vehicles, hence govt notification might help. Extend this to corporates employing cab services – consider a fine on the institution or company if any of their vehicles are found not complying.
- Disincentivise diesel vehicles even further. They’re far more polluting, hence there should be a “diesel surcharge” that makes a mid level diesel car a luxury, and SUVs really expensive.
- Mandate unaided/public schools to include teachers location in the daily bus routes. Doing this would ensure that teachers avoid taking private vehicles. With over 1,200 unaided/public schools in Delhi and 25 teachers per school, on an average, driving to work could possibly get 30,000 private vehicles off the road.
- Integration of public transport
- One pass/token system for travel by bus/Metro
- Introduce and encourage feeder buses to be used instead of rickshaws which cause nightmares/snarls around entry/exit to metro stations
- Work with Haryana/UP governments to integrate payments+feeder transport for seamlessly traveling between Delhi/Noida/Gurgaon
- Seek government funds to fast track metro development work in Gurgaon/Noida saving commuters from Delhi extra hops in everyday travel.
- Have more and more buses. BRT etc. follow from that. But first you have to have enough buses that the buses go half full. Notify the bus timings,
- Make it mandatory for taxi apps to do a certain percentage of pooled rides. And put a cap on how many vehicles they can have on their rolls.
- Add safe, comfortable and very frequent HoHo-like service for local loops (CP-circle, between CP and ITO, etc.).
- Lucky draw/ win prizes while you travel by metro. Make “taking public transport” a status symbol.
- Institute metered fares for autos and cabs. And enforce it.
- Work with governments of Punjab and Haryana to discourage farmers from burning stalks.
- Regulate pollution at construction sites
- Tax concession:
- Give Tax concession to people who are nearer to their offices. Say within a radius of 2 kms of their offices. This in one stroke will reduce traffic and pollution.
- Create clusters wherein official and residential complexes are co-located. So, majority of the people working in these offices reside in the very vicinity. e.g. Magarpatta City in Pune was created in these lines
- Tax concessions/Positive gratification to people who take public transport.
- Pollution suction machines: Give municipal sweepers another job/upgrade their equipment with air pollution masks, mechanical suction machines? All they do is lob dust into the air every morning. #BanJhaadus.
- Managing pollution because of traffic jams
- Centralized system for traffic advisories: Commute in NcR managed centrally for personal vehicles with incentives to manage peak time congestion
- Corporate engagement for flexi timings: Active discussion & engagement including government offices to encourage travel during non peak hours thereby reducing traffic congestion and making traffic management easier
- Run campaigns with corporates to encourage car-pooling.
- Leverage Local RWAs
- Make RWA’s responsible for meeting greenery growth targets else cancel their license!
- Use community areas to aggressively promote sharing ride details/time to encourage car pooling locally! Engage the community
- Stop RWA’s from maintaining ornamental parks and focus on tree plantation and maintenance
- Industrial Pollution
- Crowd Sourced app to report puc norm violators
- Just click the Number plate and the exhaust fumes
- One click reporting of offending vehicles
- Leaderboard to show vehicles with maximum reports. (Image to Text)
- Traffic police to pursue the top 10 offenders everyday.
- Equip health professionals
- Educate them about air pollution- i) dust vs. PM 2.5 etc so that they can cater to patient’s needs better. ii) Precautions/gadgets (mask/purifiers). iii) effective medicines- for toddlers and adults especially the elderly
Long term solutions
- Encourage solar power in Delhi
- make solar water heating systems compulsory for houses beyond a particular size
- Shut down thermal power plant in Badarpur. The most polluting power plant in India (source)
- Rethink ring railway strategy by including it in the Metro network
- Encourage electric cars by offering subsidies/concessions, lower taxes, no road tax requirement.
- Phase out all personal diesel cars in five years
- Create a parallel road infrastructure (for transportation of goods , easily commute to /From NCR) outside of Delhi connecting Gurgaon to Noida thereby allowing trucks to bypass Delhi
- Finish the Western Expressway (incomplete) and start work on the Eastern Peripheral Expressway, which allows trucks to bypass Delhi (work hasn’t begun yet)
- Move outAdd Lanes for Cycles. brick kilns from the outskirts of Delhi (source)
- Tax subsidised Electric/Battery Vehicles.
- Police is not positively replying to Calls made for burning garbage ,Create a different mechanism to make report such incidents .
- Go for the next generation of public transport system, called skyTran. (www.skytran.us) skyTran is a transit system that provides all seated travel (unlike Metro rail), non-stop travel and direct travel from origin station to destination (no changeover). If we had skyTran in Delhi, people could go from any point in Delhi+NCR to any other point in less than 30 minutes. It runs on magnetic levitation (electricity) and is the only public transport technology that provides higher quality of transportation than cars. If we are to provide a public transport that causes car users to give up cars voluntarily, skyTran would be it. skyTran has been developed with support from NASA in Silicon Valley, investment from Eric Schmidt’s (Google’s chairman) fund Innovation Endeavor and Israel Aerospace.
- Have a designated car-pool lane and/or provide other incentives for car-pooling
- Encourage use of electric cars, especially when availability increases. Create infrastructure with charging stations etc.
- Have a five year plan with targets and yearly milestones and make it public
- Reduce daily inter-state commute between Gurgaon and Noida by fast-tracking direct metro link (via Hauz Khas).
- Create Mega-car parks at congested places e.g. Dhaula Kuan and link with Gurgaon rapid metro or support by seat-only feeder bus services between high traffic routes, at nominal cost
- Limit vehicles per building and work with organizations to develop innovative solutions for meeting plans
- One simple solution is having Battery/Hybrid cards. I don’t see any reason why Prius should be charged the same import duty as BMW X6. There should be zero duty + tax benefits on use of Hybrid card. Same for Teslas of the world.
- Make public transport more cheaper (in some cases it can be free also) to increase public inclination towards public transport.
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