Not just Delhi, but the infamous Asian brown cloud covers a sizeable chunk of north India.
A large chunk of this comes from agriculture waste burning, brick kilns and factories operating in a fuel-inefficient way. Punjab’s Burning Fields, Delhi’s Deadly Smog, Brick kilns along with the ravaging politics contribute to the spiked levels of air pollution.
Delhi Government, under the supervision of Arvind Kejriwal, however, launched Odd-even rule that even failed to curb the pollution in the city. Since cars don’t constitute a significant chunk of Pollution, even with the decrease in the number of vehicles on the road, there was no direct control on keeping the pollution at bay. We need a more strategic answer to this problem by effective implementation of other schemes.
Before prescribing the changes, we must start by detecting mistakes in recording the effects of pollution.
Remove flaws in Monitoring
High volume samples
Measure: Particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10
Flaws: Competition among instrument makers and component suppliers is resulting undercutting. Given the lack of quality control, it is doubtful if these machines measure what they claim to.
Measure: Gases like So2, etc
Flaws: Competition is resulting in undercutting. some bids below the cost of the experiment itself
Measure: All pollutants
Flaws: State pollution control boards and companies tweak calibration to ensure air quality numbers stay within permissible limits
Alter cropping pattern to prevent stubble burning
Given the electoral clout of farmers in Haryana and Punjab, a solution to the problem is not easy. Three corrections need to be effected in parallel.
- The MSP for rice needs to increase each year at a rate slower than that of general inflation.
- Power tariffs need to increase. Power use must be metered.
- A gradual redirection of FCI’s rice procurement towards eastern states which are better endowed with
- Introduction of technology to practice new form of cropping.
- Use of bailor, that converts straw bundles manually and can be removed after that.
- Happy Seeder developed by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). The tractor-operated machine, allows wheat seeds to be directly drilled to fields even with standing stubble or loose straw from combine-harvested paddy, is yet to find broad acceptance among farmers. With a Happy Seeder, the farmer can harvest paddy and plant wheat the same day, without the need for clearing the left-over stubble.
- Paddy straw can be effectively used for power generation. This will go a long way towards overcoming the problem of disposal of crop residues and power deficit in the region.
- There is an excellent potential for making investments in paddy straw-based power plants which can help avoid stubble burning to a large extent and also create employment opportunities.
- Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth. However, suitable machinery for collection, chopping and in situ incorporation of straw is required.
- Further, initiatives can also be made to convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.
- Presently, a limited quantity of paddy straw is used for cardboard making and in packing industries and paper mills. However, new opportunities for industrial use — such as the extraction of yeast protein — can be explored.
- Develop rice varieties that are both rich in grain yield and high in straw quality. Use of such dual-purpose rice varieties will help to maintain sustainability.
Management of Dust Particles
Long term measure
The biggest problem in Delhi is road dust, not vehicles. This is where the maximum focus is needed. The road-vacuuming plan can make by far the most significant contribution to pollution reduction. But it needs some deep ancillary thinking. ‘IF’ a thousand road vacuumers operate on Delhi’s streets, they will suck up thousands of tonnes of dust every month. This will create a problem of their disposal. Delhi’s landfills are already overfilled. Besides, dirt put in landfills will blow right back on to the streets, defeating the whole point of vacuuming.
- Converting dust into sand will ease pollution, solve the problem of dust dumping, reduce illegal sand mining, lower sand price and boost the construction industry. The best solution is converting them into bricks.
- Revitalise water bodies like lakes, rivers and lakes so that they can absorb high temperature and some gaseous elements as well.
- Reforestation, Afforestation campaign along roadsides and the medians
- Cover landfills with vegetation
- Close Badarpur plant
- Stop construction activity
- Stop manual sweeping
- Sprinkle water over roads to allow dust to settle
- Close schools to prevent children’s exposure.
- Ban diesel vehicles older than ten years
Another way of stopping pollution is by planting greeneries within the walls.
Here are some examples of the green plants that can be planted indoor
1. Spider Plant
Where: Useful in kitchens with gas stoves
Why: Controls carbon monoxide, xylene
Where: Potted plant, can be put in the balcony or near the window
Why: Helps absorb carbon monoxide
3. Boston Fern
Where: Best for hanging baskets, proliferates in bright to medium light
Why: Reduces formaldehyde, xylene
4. Apeca Palm
Where: Can be kept anywhere, but especially useful in carpeted rooms or those with freshly painted furniture
Why: Reduces the negative impact of xylene and formaldehyde
5. English Ivy
Where: Best for hanging baskets, useful in freshly painted rooms, or those with computers, printers, fax machines, and at petrol stations
Why: Acts against benzene, formaldehyde, xylene
Restructure Command structure to Issue direction Cover exposed areas of soil with vegetation to Community Groups and RWA
Apart from the aforesaid precautions, the following steps can also arrest the rising levels of Delhi pollution.
- A mechanism to compost farm waste through subsidies. Delhi citizens could fund composting plants in Punjab and Haryana that would collect the farm waste and give manure as the output.
- Use subsidies and laws to force brick kilns all around north India to use cleaner technology. Again, citizen groups could fund the move to cleaner technology.
- Completely ban any kind of waste burning. In parallel, the municipalities must ensure that all wastes are collected and managed.
- Providing affordable heating units to the common public – including the watchmen and homeless people. In my visits to Delhi, I’m surprised how common is waste burning, especially in winter. This is when the city becomes smoggy.
- Move all biofuel burning at homes [cow dung, wood] to LPG with government schemes.
- Build more cities across north India to take pressure off Delhi. The central government could fund new capital cities for Punjab and Haryana along with new towns in MP, Rajasthan and UP to arrest the flow of population coming into Delhi. There should be an attempt to depopulate NCR region by around a third.
- Build more housing within the city – by having higher FAR near the metro stations and growing vertically. There should be more people within the city and fewer people in the suburbs. That would reduce the need for commuting. Our cities are flat inside and high outside rather than the other way around.
- Make it quite expensive to drive into the city by having tollgates in the entrance of the city. Use that to build roads end to end and avoid the road dust that comes when the tires hit the roads.
Make the city walkable and safe and check more ways to stop hitting private cars hitting the city roads.