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Delhi's Air Quality Nightmare: The Urgent Call for Long-Term Solutions

As Delhi's air quality deteriorates predictably each winter, experts and officials grapple with short-term fixes. A deeper look reveals the need for lasting, holistic solutions to combat the persistent pollution crisis.

By Neeraj Thakur
New Update

Delhi's Air Quality Crisis
Delhi air pollution | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

Every year, as winter approaches, we find ourselves trapped in the same recurring nightmare: Delhi's deteriorating air quality. It's a troubling cycle that seems to play out with frustrating predictability, and it's disheartening to witness the lack of substantial action to address this ongoing crisis. 

Once again, Delhi is descending into a perilous gas chamber. On Monday, Delhiites woke up to an alarming Air Quality Index (AQI) of 305. The situation is no better in our neighbouring cities, with Gurugram at 255, Ghaziabad at 246, Noida at 304, and Greater Noida at a staggering 354.


Nivit Kumar Yadav, Programme Director at the Centre for Science and Environment on Delhi's worsening air quality levels.

As Nivit Kumar Yadav, Programme Director at the Centre for Science and Environment, points out, Delhi is but a small dot on the vast map of India, surrounded by three populous states: Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh and Delhi’s air quality crisis is often related to many extraneous factors. “During this season, an astounding 35 million tons of crop residue is set ablaze, further worsening our air quality. While it's true that Delhi may not host a large number of air-polluting industries, the fact remains that Delhi is surrounded by three states. In mid 90s, when legislation came about to relocate air-polluting industries from Delhi, the question arises: where did they relocate to?” asks Nivit.

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He adds, “Additionally, we can’t discount internal factors. Delhi sees the daily influx of approximately 1,000 new vehicles, contributing to the alarming statistic of ten million vehicles currently on our roads. Of these, 6.8 million are two-wheelers, and around 3.2 million are cars and jeeps. Unfortunately, we have limited knowledge of how well these vehicles adhere to emission control standards. These are staggering numbers for a city the size of Delhi, and they underscore the severity of the issue. In an increasingly environmentally conscious world, the call for electing governments based on their commitment to improving our environmental conditions is not only logical but essential. The environment is no longer an abstract concern; it is intricately linked to the quality of our lives, our health, and the future of our planet. It's high time we elevate environmental issues to the forefront of political discourse during elections, but regrettably, this shift is a rarity in today's political landscape”. 

Delhi’s air quality crisis is an issue that demands immediate and proactive measures. Acknowledging the worsening air pollution situation, Delhi's Environment Minister, Gopal Rai said the government is taking action by employing dust suppressant powder to curb dust pollution in the city. 

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“The drop in temperature and declining wind speeds have led to a surge in the Air Quality Index. In response, we have issued directives for the implementation of the second phase of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in Delhi-NCR. A recent meeting was convened to strategize the effective execution of GRAP 2. Our focus includes identifying 13 high-pollution hotspot areas within Delhi, as well as pinpointing eight locations with elevated AQI levels. To address these areas, a dedicated team will be deployed to conduct comprehensive surveys. Furthermore, we are committed to increasing the frequency of buses and metro services to encourage greater use of public transportation. Looking ahead, we anticipate making more decisions as part of GRAP 3. It is worth noting that firecrackers have been entirely banned in Delhi, and discussions have been initiated with neighbouring states to address firecracker usage and stubble burning,” said Minister Rai.

Unfortunately, every year, we find ourselves stuck in the same narrative. The government's response often consists of short-term fixes rather than the comprehensive, long-term solutions needed to combat the perennial problem of Delhi’s air quality nightmare. It's high time we shift our focus from reactionary measures to a sustainable, forward-thinking approach that can address the persistent challenge of rising AQI levels in Delhi NCR. 

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