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Who is raising false pollution bogies? Delhi loses billions in search of demon, order probe


Delhi governed by whims and fancies of Aam Aadmi Party chief minister Arvind Kerjriwal and National Green Tribunal (NGT) is apparently working on “truthiness”, things which are not true but one wishes were true, a term popularized by the US comedian Stephen Colbert.

Delhi has not cut its pollution but has lost about a billion of rupees in the cacophony of the “move to curb pollution” in the most unscientific whimsical manner. The Delhiites are spending more on commutation as taxis and autos charge more. Their commutation time too has increased.

This has harmed Delhi, national capital region (NCR) and possibly the entire nation immensely. The “truthiness’, an unscientific approach of Kejriwal to counter pollution – by introducing an illegal odd-even car days and imposition of arbitrary, not sanctioned by any law – heavy Rs 2000 fine – has led to a chaotic situation all over the NCR.

It burdens Delhi government with Rs 10.12 crore as it is losing Rs 67.50 lakh a day to pay the 4500 additional civil defence volunteers; allegedly they are all AAP workers, for doing nothing on Delhi roads except holding placards – an indirect party propaganda.

Absenteeism in offices and other work places has increased by 10 to 15 percent at least. This is not restricted to car owners, supposedly poor who had been going by metro or buses having found these overcrowded preferred to give their work a miss. The NCR car owners are not rich people. They are forced to have a vehicle of their own as the public transport is awful. One can only guess the losses in terms of wages and disruption to work.

Add to this making the Delhi police dysfunctional for something that is neither legally sanctioned nor an ethical purpose except harassing and humiliating the common man. Add also the cost of deviating the police from its regular law and order duty.

Who is at fault? The cars! What is the principle? The users who pollute have to pay. Good logic. But who has allowed those cars to be manufactured? The same implementing agency, the state government, who thrive on higher registration and parking charges, has allowed these cars to be registered for 15 years as per the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA).

The MVA allows one to drive the vehicle for all the 365 days. Surprisingly the registering agency itself is flouting the law by not allowing citizens to drive the vehicles. If it is so concerned about pollution it should order stoppage of production of all cars. Why does it not do?

That utopian ideas do not work is also amplified by the way the MCD toll collector quit job to cut his losses. One reason discussed in hushed tones is stated to be the ‘underhand’ payments made to implementers of “super pollution tax” on heavy vehicles. Yes, if laws are terse such deals are common.

One would have been happy had this exercise led to cut in pollution.

The PM10 pollution, BBC on January 6 claimed has risen to near 500 micrograms from 400 micrograms on December 31 – supposedly on days there were 50 percent less cars on Delhi roads. The BBC claim is supported by the SAFAR – India site of ministry of earth sciences. It has found Delhi air with 466.1 micrograms of PM10 pollutants. The corresponding safe limit of is 100.

Even PM 2.5 pollutants have not shown any marked change, reports DNA. The average level of PM 2.5 was around 180 microgrammes per cubic metre, three times above the safe limit of 60.

Realtime ambient air data of Central Pollution Control Board or SAFAR websites do not show any decline in air pollution levels, reports Times of India on January 8.

Kejriwal and his team need to be honest on an issue that has rocked Delhiites. They need to admit the mistake of the misadventure that has put Delhi on jeopardy.

The method of calculating particulate matter also needs to be studied. There are WHO standards apparently based on European conditions. In tropical conditions, dust level is always higher.

Every additional PM in Delhi does not mean it is unnatural for this region. The Indian experts need to develop separate standards for Indian cities and regions.

One measure may not be good for all. International agencies mostly serving the western cause have developed standards that are certainly not workable in tropical dusty conditions like that of Delhi. The WHO has found Afghanistan cities have 260-334 PM10 pollutants; Lahore 198, Peshawar 540; Bahrain 318, Abu Dhabi (UAE) 170, Dhaka (Bangladesh) 180 and Delhi 286.

A comparison of the figures show by these standards Delhi is certainly not at the higher end of pollution. So why is this hue and cry?

Indian agencies like the earth sciences and CPCB need to do fresh research and fix the ambient quality for tropical northern, southern and coastal area conditions. During the past 15 days, it was also observed that different Delhi areas have different levels of PM.

It raises severe doubts about this so-called anti-pollution measures and its objectives. Delhi has seen similar heightened campaigns about 20 years ago on “water quality”. The campaign by bottled water agencies led to a situation that small thelasthat used to sell water for 10 paise a glass had to move out so that the big ones could sell it for Rs 10 to 15.

About 15 years back a similar hue and cry was raised against loose sell of mustard oil. Entrepreneurs having small expellers in and around Delhi selling it at affordable prices were forced to shut shop to make way for large manufacturers. It followed a price escalation.

Another noise was raised against so called congestion in Delhi. It demanded raising Rs 5 parking charges to be hiked to Rs 100. Parking mafia is thriving and the nation is buckling under the pressure of the not-so-honest campaigners.

“Anti-pollution campaigners” apparently at the behest of some big operators have demanded levying higher charges on Delhiites to curb “pollution”, which by even WHO standards are not anywhere beyond safe limits.

The central government and experts need to be cautious on this fictitious campaign. A probe must be ordered into the functioning of NGT, AAP government and all others who are raising false bogies.


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