More reports on: Government policies

Green panel directs Delhi government to notify citizens of 'pollution hotspots'

03 December 2015

Delhi's foul air problem has assumed such alarming proportions that the city's pollution control body is planning daily warnings informing people about 'pollution hotspots' and including going car-free.

The move follows the order of the National Green Tribunal to the Delhi government yesterday to roll out such notifications within a week.

''We are working on a dashboard on the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) website that will have notifications such as 'this area most polluted' and 'don't use vehicles today'. Areas with high pollution levels will be flashed along with measures people can take,'' Hindustan Times quoted Delhi environment and forest secretary Ashwani Kumar as saying. The dashboard would be more mobile-friendly while a mobile app was also in the works, he added.

The Delhi government was not considering Beijing-style notifications, he added. Smog-hit Beijing recently sounded an orange alert - its second highest - that called on citizens to stay indoors, close schools and suspend construction activities.

''We are not looking at the Beijing model. How will closing down schools help as the air at home is no better,'' Kumar said.

Delhi left the Chinese capital behind as the city with the worst air in the world in the WHO rankings, where 13 of the 20 most polluted cities are all in India. Delhi's air quality yesterday stood at 'very poor' level - only one category better that 'severe' - with particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) much in excess of the permissible limit.

Meanwhile, union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said there was no conclusive data to establish that foul air in Delhi was driving people to commit suicides.

The minister said in the Rajya Sabha yesterday: ''The ministry has no scientific data or information to conclude that foul air in Delhi and the National Capital Region is driving people to suicide. No apex body has been constituted to study this problem.''

He said the ambient air quality in the capital had been affected due to vehicular and industrial pollution, construction-related activities and road dust. ''The other reasons include discharge of large quantities of untreated or partially treated sewage and generation of huge quantum of municipal solid waste,'' he said.

According to the minister, there was no study to confirm that the practice of burning harvested crops in nearby states was also contributing to air pollution in Delhi.

''There is no conclusive study available to establish that the long-range transport of plume of fine particles or various gaseous pollutants due to stubble burning from neighbouring state would always drift towards a particular city. It would depend upon prevailing meteorological conditions, including wind direction, wind speed, and mixing height. Stubble burning is practised by farmers in various states, which causes pollution,'' he said.

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