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Odd-Even returns to Delhi as city braces for higher air pollution: What do Green Activists think?

HW News spoke to several environmental and Green activists in Delhi to know whether the schemes announced by the Government will help to tackle the city’s air pollution issue.

 

New Delhi| The Delhi Government today announced the implementation of the odd-even scheme in the capital city from 4th November to 15th November. CM Arvind Kejriwal said that under the scheme, odd and even-numbered Vehicle ply on alternate days. The Delhi CM, however, did not announce any exemptions planned in the scheme.

Arvind Kejriwal said the move was aimed at combating the high level of air pollution in winters when crop burning takes place in neighbouring states of Delhi. This is the third time the Delhi government has implemented the odd-even scheme to keep a check on air pollution in the capital city.

Kejriwal said that Delhi is one state which has been able to keep a check on air pollution in the past few years. The odd-even scheme will not be implemented in case the air pollution level does not cross the danger mark.

Apart from the odd-even scheme, Kejriwal announced 6 other measures to tackle the air pollution problem including distribution of Mask, The sprinkling of water, Plantation of saplings, etc.

HW News spoke to several environmental and Green Mission Delhi activists in Delhi to know whether the schemes announced by the Government will help to tackle the city’s air pollution issue.

Peepal Baba, Founder Give Me Trees trust:

Delhi

A person who had worked for 42 years on our environment, working for the forestry and pollution project, whether it is a populous or not a populous measure, whether it is this government or the previous government, something is better than nothing.

It is so critical, it is just we are not declaring an emergency on this matter. At least something will be done. Be it putting tax, anything. Even speaking about air, or even about soil or water..at least they are thinking about solutions. Because we need to think about fundamental changes. Then there would be a voter backlash. If we think logically, the Yamuna matter should be evacuated, which means all the encroachment needs to be removed from there. It has already passed an order. The encroachment should be removed, and fencing and wiring should be done and proper bio-diversity zones need be created. But who will pay for that?

If you do that there will be a heavy backlash of the voters. Because 70% of Delhi’s population is living in illegal homes. The slum-like houses and 70 % of houses are living illegally. Now, if you remove them, next year the elections are due, whether it is BJP or AAP or Congress, so whatever stand they take, they are going to lose out.

If you can do little, “TOO GOOD”.  if you can do 10%, “DO IT”. If you can do 20%, “DO IT”,  if you can do 40%, “DO IT”; but for God’s sake “PLEASE DO IT”. Post-Diwali last year, every day in Delhi-NCR, it used to evaporate or blew away because of the hot air. Now the weather is changing, humidity is very high and along with that smoke is mixing up and it is causing a lot of cases of asthma, pneumonia, bronchial problems, and other disorders. If you see the clinic in Delhi, huge cues of patients are lined up.

These are just toys for keeping the kid quiet for some days but what will happen a few days later? and how many people can afford (masks) and how many people can do it? It’s not possible. Today AAP is doing something, tomorrow the Central Government will announce something. Just trying to please the population. So it is not a long term thing. The long term thing is to bring 50% of Delhi-NCR under permanent vegetation cover so that the air, soil, and water gets detoxed. How much tax will you levy? How many restrictions will you put? How many odd-even will you put? These are all just good for media, good for TRP. Good for making news headlines, good for talking and debating but nothing comes out of these things.

Anubha Jain – Environmentalist, Delhi     

delhi

Whatever the initiative has been taken if we can meet even 50% of that, that would be good for us. Before Diwali the agenda they are trying to use, if they can use 50% of that, even that would be helpful for our environment. Whatever steps and promises they are making, if they can fulfil some of them, it would help us. If they use (intention) for other purposes but for us the environment is the prime thing. We wish they take it on an agenda basis, put actions over it. We welcome this initiative because the government has a lot of power and if they use power to commit to such issues, it would help to some extent.

 

Vimlendu Jha, Founder Swechha India

The fact that pollution has become an election issue, I welcome that. The biggest civic issue that Delhi is facing today is Pollution and there has been no conversation around it by the political parties. So the fact that both BJP and AAP are discussing pollution, that’s a welcome move. Second, also the fact that you are talking about pollution in September before pollution months, weeks actually is a welcome move. But at the same time, putting the entire onus of Air Pollution each time, on Odd-Even is unfortunate because every empirical data that we have from several technical bodies says that the air pollution only reduces by 2-3% because of odd-even.

It doesn’t really reflect medium-term or long term plan of the govt or governance. This is almost like asking citizens to stop using their cars. The govt’s responsibility is not just advisory, but also of action which is completely missing in all the 7-point agenda. Half the points that the govt/ Arvind Kejriwal has put forth today are the same things that they’ve been reiterating in the last four years. So be it a sprinkling of water or planting of trees, all of this sounds great. But if you look at the track record, public transport is still in shambles. There is very little or nothing has happened under the Electric Vehicle policy that the state government has come up with.

If you look at Metro services, If you look at burning of waste-almost 20-25% of the pollution that Delhi faces today is because of the waste burning, there is no conversation around it. So there is the distribution of mask, a sprinkling of water, odd-even, these things are fine for which we can congratulate the government. But the government is also supposed to be the custodian of our environment, custodian of our air. And in the month of September, you’d expect concrete terms and action from the govt rather than only this.

Half of the things that Arvind Kejriwal mentioned today are a part of the Supreme Court-mandated graded Response action plan. As the pollution peaks, he will have to do ‘odd-even’ because the Supreme Court has asked the govt to do it. The ban on firecracker is not actually done by the state govt, it is done by the Supreme Court and the state govt is supposed to execute it on the ground.

It’s good to have air pollution in the headlines, in the election manifesto, on banners and flags, but there needs to be more than this lip service from current dispensation.

The other issue is stubble burning which Kejriwal talked about today. In the next few weeks, we will have the state govt blaming each other for air pollution levels. When Delhi becomes a Gas Chamber, it has become a convenient narrative to blame Haryana & Punjab. While Delhi has its own local issue-Dust, which is almost 25-30% of the pollution in Delhi. It is not coming from the neighbouring state but is a local issue. Lack of public transport is of Delhi and not of Punjab. So unless there is less politicking and more political action you will see a repeat of the air pollution crisis in Delhi.

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