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Leapfrog to cleaner norms


28th November, 2014, Times of India, New Delhi


NEW DELHI: A day after National Green Tribunal gave a detailed order for tackling air pollution in Delhi, the agencies tasked to do so seemed to be in a haze. In fact, some officials claimed they were yet to read the order which has asked for a complete ban on more than 15-year-old vehicles. Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the environment department of Delhi government - which have been entrusted with implementation of several directions, including creating a web portal where citizens can upload pictures or complaints of open burning or other pollution-related issues, and exploring the possibility of installing air purifiers in markets - said they need time to study the order. 


"Let the officials read the order first. We will try to implement whatever the Tribunal has directed us to do," said Sanjiv Kumar, secretary, environment. Other officials, however, seemed less enthusiastic. "We are already busy with other orders of NGT. I am not sure how such elaborate directions can be implemented in Delhi," said another official. 


Activists are more hopeful. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has appealed to NGT to broaden the scope of its order. "We appeal for more stringent measures to bring down the severe peak pollution levels in Delhi. The city needs stronger action to reduce vehicle numbers, scale up walking, cycling and public transport, and leapfrog to clean emission standards," said a CSE statement on Thursday. 


Arguing that implementation of the order is not difficult, Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE's clean air programme, said Delhi can learn from Hong Kong. "Hong Kong has a special squad for enforcing pollution laws. The squad that also has citizen volunteers spots polluting vehicles and sends them for maintenance or takes action against them. Delhi can also use technology like remote sensing to track defaulters. It's expensive but we can have such pilot projects in Delhi," she said. 


Anumita feels private vehicles should be restrained even as Delhi works on upgrading its public transport system. "It can't be a chicken-or-egg situation. You cannot wait for the public transport system to be better before there are curbs on using private vehicles. I think they have to be in tandem. For instance, Nehru Place has both Metro and a bus stand. The parking charges can be hiked and there should be a cap on parking so that people can use public transport instead," she said.